To Kick-off Black Music Appreciation Month, I feel it is important to begin with a few of our most iconic and legendary artists within the R&B, Hip-Hop, Jazz or Gospel genres. With that being said, I will begin with a few of my favorite artists of all-time. And at the end of my features or reviews, I just might include personal stories about my connection to some of the artists or their music.

Marvin Gaye…“What’s Going On”

Music historians view “What’s Going On” as one of the most important releases of the seventies. It was first released on May 21, 1971. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s seminal release. Many critics and fans regard it as Marvin’s greatest and most important album. “What’s Going On” ranked number one on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the greatest albums of all time. Although it was not known at the time, this release is now considered to be a landmark event in music history.

“What’s Going On” was written, produced and performed by Marvin Gaye along with Motown’s in-house studio band. This was the first album of Marvin’s previous ten releases that gave him Production credit. It was also the first album to give credit to Motown’s band of musicians known as, The Funk Brothers. This band was not just random studio musicians that came together for one release. They were the musicians behind some of the greatest Motown And Tamla Records stars and hits of all-time. “The Funk Brothers” is considered to be one of the most successful group of studio musicians in the history of music. They were known as the “hit-making machine” behind Motown’s super-star artists.

All 13 members of the Funk Brothers were awarded a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 2004.

They were also inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame.

“What’s Going On” is a concept album that was released during the Vietnam war. Each individual song blended seamlessly together to make one collective conceptional masterpiece. The songs are told from the perspective of a Vietnam vet that returned home only to find a lot of injustice, hate and despair in the United States. In fact, the album was inspired by an incident of police brutality. I suppose that is why many people are finding or revisiting this influential album fifty years later.

The title song is still considered to be one of the greatest and most impactful protest songs in history. The album was so different from the other typical Motown hits. Motown released music that would appeal to everyone. The founder of Motown, Barry Gordy wanted music that everyone could sing, dance and feel good about. An album like “What’s Going On” was so different that it nearly was never released. I am so glad this album exists, and I am happy that it opened doors for other important titles to follow in its footsteps.

Marvin Gaye’s complete body of work and especially the “What’s Going On” album has inspired many of today’s song writers, musicians, performers and even super-stars. Since this is a concept album, I am not going to tell you stand-out tracks because you should experience it in its full entirety. Put on the headphones or ear buds for this one and enjoy every word and note of Marvin Gaye’s most revered masterpiece “What’s Going On”.

NOW…Here is my connection to Marvin Gaye!

Marvin used to shop in the music store I managed in Los Angeles. He also rented movies in my store. He may have even crossed paths with a young Rosie Perez who worked as a video clerk before becoming the actress we all know and love. In 1982 with the release of “Midnight Love” (which included the gigantic hit song “Sexual Healing”), Marvin Gaye scheduled an in-store appearance at the store. Fans came from far and wide to meet him and to get his autograph. After the appearance I drove his famous friend and collaborator Harvey Fuqua to Marvin’s house which was just a couple miles from my store. In 1984 when Marvin died, he had movie rentals that were still in his possession. Now someone may have these movies never knowing that they were once in the hands of the incomparable, musical genius, Marvin Gaye.

Collectors’ Choice Music helps sponsor this blog. It’s a great place where you can add this amazing album and other works by Marvin Gaye to your own collection. Just use this link here.