Daily Archives: 16/03/2013

Marvin Gaye’s- “What’s Going On”

What's Going On

The birthplace of Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. was in the capitol city of Washington D.C. Before Gay was singing Soul, Funk, Disco and R&B he started in his fathers church at a young age singing, drumming and playing the piano. This is where music first touches Gay’s life. While Marvin was in high school he got his first taste of secular music singing in rhythm and blues and doo-wop groups. In 1960 Gaye signed with Motown and soon after that he became a session drummer for the Miracles, the Marvelettes, the Supremes, and little Stevie Wonder.

His first debut album The Soulful Moods Of Marvin Gaye gave him the chance to incorporate his inspired interest of jazz with Motown’s own desire of R&B music. This lead to Gaye’s first released single “Let You Conscience Be Your Guide.” Both album and single wasn’t commercially successful until 1962 “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow,” leading to Gaye’s first minor hit single. “Hitch Hike,” “Pride And Joy,” “Baby Don’t You Do It” and “How Sweet It Is (To be loved by You)” are songs of Gaye’s successful music abilities.

His duet later with Tammi Terrell also brought huge hits such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing and “You’re All I Need to Get By.” This duet soon ended in 1970 when Tammi Terrell succumbed a brain tumor leading Marvin Gaye into a period of depression. After the returning of his depression this lead Gaye to create an album that he had never done before incorporating jazz and funk, while talking about the world’s social and political issues in just saying three words: What’s Going On.

During the time of “What’s Going On” on a worldwide view point the Vietnam War was up and away. Marvin Gaye’s brother, Frankie Gaye had survived three-years of serving his country in Vietnam. After hearing the stories of his younger brother’s experience in the war Marvin had some idea of the lyrical content of the song “What’s Going On” but not all until he experience his own war that was happening within his friendly neighborhood of the United States of America.

During the late 60s through the early 70s it was a tidal wave of chaos happening within the different states. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and (Bobby) Robert Kennedy shook Marvin to the core. Violence in the streets of Detroit of the 1967 race riot, Chicago during the Democratic National Convention of `68, and the Kent State University in 1970 was all palling up as insanity in Marvin’s and everyone else’s lives. Things wasn’t getting better with the moon landing but just making Gaye more depressing. Even with all of the chaos going on Gaye started to write lyrics that reach the souls of the people across the glob.

Renaldo “Obie” Benson a member from the Four Tops came up with the song idea of “What’s Going On” from a tour stop in San Francisco. With the image of him seeing all the kids with long hair being beaten by the cops while they weren’t bothering anybody was a horrifying view that lead Benson to wonder what the “fuck” was going on. The help of lyricist Al Cleveland Benson started creating a song that addressed the issues that was seen on that indescribable day. With the thought of it being a protest song Benson struggled to find an artist that would want to sing his song that he thought was a song about love and understanding. He just wanted to know what was going on.

With Marvin Gaye in fates mind Benson know that he was a perfect candidate for his protest/love song because Benson knew that Gaye already felt that he was a rebel and a spiritual person. With the help of Benson wife, Gaye accepted Bensons’ deal of letting him have a percentage to the song “What’s Going On” if Gaye would sing it. For Renaldo giving Gaye this song it would change black music, as they knew it.

When Berry Gordy first heard that the songs on the album were protest songs Gordy thought it would mess up Gaye’s career because he was the hottest artist out singing great love songs and was a big sex symbol of the `60s and `70s. Berry Gordy refused to release the album and called it “the worst album ever heard in my life.” So Marvin told Gordy until you come to your senses and release What’s Going On, he would sing nothing more for the company. When released in January 1971 it rapidly hit number-one on the R&B charts and stayed there for five weeks. With the song success Gordy gave Gaye the ultimatum of completing the album by the end of March so Marvin spent ten days recording the album What’s Going On. The album then came out in May after Gaye remixed the album in Hollywood.

One of Gaye’s visions for the album What’s Going On was making sure people never heard an album like this one before, so he stayed away from the standard Motown beat. To make this song different Gaye brought in the best such as veteran big band drummer Chest Forest, Percussionist Jack Ashford on tambourine, Eddie Brown on bongos and congas, Earl Derouen on congas and Jack Brokensha on vibes and assorted percussive toys. This was Marvin’s first self-produced single, which had two accident recordings, therefore making the album famous for at that time. During the opener of the song the alto sax was played by Eli Fontaine. This was unique because Fontaine was just warming up and then he signaled for a take but Gaye told him to go home due to that they already had what they needed. By Fontaine being confused he told Gay that he was goofing around but Marvin replied,

“You goof exquisitely. Thank you.”

Marvin’s multi-layered lead vocal was also a mistake by the engineer Ken Sands. After hearing it back in mono Sands liked how it sound and kept it the way that it was in later becoming Marvin Gaye’s hallmark of his vocal style. The song had a relaxed groove; a recognizable sax intro, a hook that never repeats and a saxophone that does not reappear made this song different during its time.

The lyrics of the song prompts hurt and anger, but you can never tell because of the chanting party chatter along with percussive instruments in the background. “What’s Going On” was a song that no other producer had ever done or tried during in the mid `60s and `70s.

As a young child growing up listening to Marvin Gaye his smooth voice and the songs he created intrigued me. When I heard the song  “What’s Going On” I could imagine the scene that Marvin was describing in his song thinking about how things were back in the `60s and `70s. I thought of this song to be a song of the future because I knew that it was only the beginning of what Marvin Gaye was preaching to the world about. When the planes hit the Twin Towers I started to think about this song in reference to the political endeavors of the United States going to war and seeing the reactions of people faces during this tragedy. Just a few years ago with the incident of Hurricane Katrina with the way there were no one there to help the people of new Orleans, murder of Michael Jackson, Casey Anthony killing of here daughter and the shooting of Travon Martin are making me say What Marvin Gaye was saying back in 1971, “What’s Going On.”

As an industry professional I have learned to take chances, make mistakes cause that mistake could be a history changer that would last a lifetime.


Multimedia Presentation Brian Eno


“Brian Eno – 40 years of changing music”

Roxy Music

Surrounded by a U.S. Air Force base in a small village of Suffolk Brian Eno grew up listening to American radio consisting of the “Martian Music” of doo-wops, gospel, and early rock & roll music. As a teenager his passion was more so with tape recorders captivated by their knobs and buttons. Spending hours recording random noises Eno would play the tapes at different speeds and backwards fascinated with the recorder possibilities.

In 1965 as an art student Eno was introduced to the work of contemporary composers John Tilbury, minimalist John Cage, LaMonte Young, and Terry Riley. While thinking about the direction of what career path he was going towards (fine art or popular art); Eno soon found out with the help of the Velvet underground that he could do both.

Brian soon joined the avant-grade performing art troupe Merchant Taylor’s Simultaneous Cabinet in the late 1960s. Inspired by the way rock was expanding Eno joined the Maxwell Demon as a vocalist in 1969. Soon after the short time with Maxwell Demon Eno found himself with a glam band named Roxy Music. Fascinated by Roxy’s technology vision Eno then sign on as their live sound mixer and soon on stage as the bands synthesizer  player. Because of Eno’s long-flowing blond hair, garish makeup, velvet corsets, and feathery boas, his appearance in Roxy Music ended after the 1972’s self-titled debut and 1973’s For Your Pleasure album. This was due to Eno’s stealing the spotlight from singer Bryan Ferry.

The next two paragraphs I will be comparing the two tracks.

FRIPP and ENO (No PussyFooting) “The Heavenly Music Corporation”

This song is so out of the ordinary that it makes me feel like I am in a place of Alice and Wonderland searching for a way out. I hear sounds of a synthesizer that are being looped then having higher pitch synths lay on top followed by a guitar. The guitar is like a lead singer singing the lyrics throughout the song while the other synths are acting as the beat and melody of the song. It sounds like there is a delay loop on the guitar as well.

Music For Films: “From The Sam Hill”

This is a little different from the 1973 FRIPP and ENO album because it has more of a smooth ambient sound. This makes me feel like I’m on top of a hill with a slight breeze blowing through my fingers. I hear similar instruments like the guitar and some synths playing in the background. This album was for imaginary films; therefore in a sense “From The Same Hill” has a light and visionary fantasy arrangement that comes across in my mind.

Due to his 1975 car accident Eno was left in bed listening to his 18th century harp music. Unable to move to turn up his stereo to hear above the din of fallen rain Eno shortly discovered a new musical language; ambient music. Diving completely in ambient sound Eno crated a ten volume series of experimental instrumentals called Discreet Music.

Even when Eno collaborated with Robert Fripp on No PussyFooting Eno created a new technique called the “Frippertronics.” Eno found out that he had similarities with Fripp, therefore the album was revolutionary in a sense that it was only two people making one combined sound. With the help of this album Eno got an idea that the studio, not only a place of re-production but of a place of re-creating it from scratch. As an innovator, producer, artist, and pioneer Brain Eno is the reason why people are innovators. Quoted by U2:

“We didn’t go to art school we went to Brian.”

Brian Eno’s work has a number of things that pops up at me as a listener. The way he played the synthesizer was amazing its like the synthesizer was his brush and the audience was his canvas. Brian Eno has really opened my mind as a professional to perform music and look at life in its scientific form thinking outside of the world in Eno’s aspect. For that very same reason this is why Brian Eno is so unique, innovative, and artistic with the way he paints music.