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    The Hitsville U.S.A. Motown building, at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, Motown's headquarters from 1959 to 1968, which became the Motown Historical Museum in 1985 In 1957, Gordy met Smokey Robinson , who at the time was a local seventeen-year-old singer fronting a vocal harmony group called the Matadors.

    • January 12, 1959; 62 years ago
    • Los Angeles, California
    • Background
    • Conception
    • Recording
    • Music and Lyrics
    • Release and Promotion
    • Critical Reception
    • See Also
    • External Links

    By the end of the 1960s, Marvin Gaye had fallen into a deep depression following the brain tumor diagnosis of his Motown singing partner Tammi Terrell, the failure of his marriage to Anna Gordy, a growing dependency on cocaine, troubles with the IRS, and struggles with Motown Records, the label he had signed with in 1961. One night, while holed up at a Detroit apartment, Gaye attempted suicide with a handgun, only to be saved from committing the act by Berry Gordy's father. Gaye started to experience more international success around this time as both a solo artist with hits such as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" and as a dual artist with Tammi Terrell, but Gaye said during this time that he felt he "didn't deserve" his success and he felt like "a puppet - Berry's puppet, Anna's puppet. I had a mind of my own and I wasn't using it." In March 1970, Gaye's singing partner Terrell died of a brain tumor. The singer responded to Terrell's death b...

    While traveling on his tour bus with the Four Tops on May 15, 1969, Four Tops member Renaldo "Obie" Benson witnessed an act of police brutality and violence committed on anti-war protesters who had been protesting at Berkeley's People's Park in what was later termed as "Bloody Thursday". Benson later told author Ben Edmonds, "I saw this and started wondering 'what was going on, what is happening here?' One question led to another. Why are they sending kids far away from their families overseas? Why are they attacking their own kids in the street?" Returning to Detroit, Motown songwriter Al Cleveland wrote and composed a song based on his conversations with Benson of what he had seen in Berkeley. Benson sent the song to the Four Tops but his bandmates turned the song down. Benson said, "My partners told me it was a protest song. I said 'no man, it's a love song, about love and understanding. I'm not protesting. I want to know what's going on.'" Benson offered the song to Marvin Gaye...

    On June 1, 1970, Gaye entered Motown's Hitsville U.S.A. studios to record "What's Going On". Immediately after learning about the song, many of Motown's musicians, known as The Funk Brothers noted that there was a different approach with Gaye's record from that used on other Motown recordings, and Gaye complicated matters by bringing in only a few of the members while bringing his own recruits, including drummer Chet Forest. Longtime Funk Brothers members Jack Ashford, James Jamerson and Eddie Brown participated in the recording. Jamerson was pulled into the recording studio by Gaye after he located Jamerson playing with a local band at a blues bar and Eli Fontaine, the saxophonist behind "Baby, I'm For Real", also participated in the recording. Jamerson, who couldn't sit properly on his seat after arriving to the session drunk, performed his bass riffs, written for him by the album's arranger David Van De Pitte, on the floor. Fontaine's open alto saxophoneriff on the song was not o...

    "What's Going On," the title track, features soulful, passionate vocals and multi-tracked background singing, both by Gaye. The song had strong jazz, gospel, classical music orchestration, and arrangements. Reviewer Eric Henderson of Slant stated the song had an "understandably mournful tone" in response to the fallout of the late 1960s counterculture movements.Henderson also wrote that "Gaye's choice to emphasize humanity at its most charitable rather than paint bleak pictures of destruction and disillusionment is characteristic of the album that follows." This is immediately followed in segue flow by the second track, "What's Happening Brother", a song Gaye dedicated to his brother Frankie, in which Gaye wrote to explain the disillusionment of war veterans who returned to civilian life and their disconnect from pop culture. "Flyin' High (In the Friendly Sky)", which took its title from a United Airlines tag, "fly the friendly skies", dealt with dependence on heroin. The lyric, "I...

    Released on May 21, 1971, What's Going On became Gaye's first album to reach the Billboard Top LPs top ten, peaking at number six, and staying on the chart for over a year, selling over two million copies, within twelve months after its release, becoming Motown's and Gaye's best-selling album to that date until he released Let's Get It On in 1973. It also became Gaye's second number-one album on Billboard's Soul LPs chart, where it stayed for nine weeks as well as staying inside the Billboard Soul LPs chart for a record breaking 58 weeks throughout 1971 and 1972. The title track, which had been released in January 1971 as the lead single to promote the album, sold over 200,000 copies within its first week and eventually two-and-a-half-million units by the end of the year. It spent several weeks at number-two on the Billboard Hot 100 behind Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World", and spent five weeks at number one on the Soul Singleschart between March 27 and April 24, 1971. The follow...

    What's Going On was generally well received by contemporary critics. Writing for Rolling Stone in 1971, Vince Aletti praised Gaye's thematic approach towards social and political concerns, while discussing the surprise of Motown releasing such an album. In a joint review of What's Going On and Stevie Wonder's Where I'm Coming From, Aletti wrote, "Ambitious, personal albums may be a glut on the market elsewhere, but at Motown they're something new ... the album as a whole takes precedence, absorbing its own flaws. There are very few performers who could carry a project like this off. I've always admired Marvin Gaye, but I didn't expect that he would be one of them. Guess I seriously underestimated him. It won't happen again." Billboard described the record as "a cross between Curtis Mayfield and that old Motown spell and outdoes anything Gaye's ever done". Time magazine hailed it as a "vast, melodically deft symphonic pop suite". The Village Voice critic Robert Christgau was less imp...

    What's Going On – a list of accolades at Acclaimed Music
    What's Going On at Discogs(list of releases)
    "Marvin Gaye: What's Going On Now"—an episode of the BBC World Service radio program The Documentaryon the making of the album, on the 50th anniversary of its release
  2. Aug 14, 2019 · Berry Gordy III (known professionally as Berry Gordy Jr., born November 28, 1929) is an American record executive, record producer, songwriter, film producer and television producer. He is best known as the founder of the Motown record label and its subsidiaries, which was the highest-earning African-American business for decades.

  3. Martha Rose Reeves was born in Eufaula, Alabama, the first daughter of Elijah Joshua Reeves and Ruby Lee Gilmore Reeves, and the third of the couple's 11 children. She was a baby when the family moved from Eufaula to Detroit, Michigan, where her grandfather, Reverend Elijah Reeves, was a minister at Detroit's Metropolitan Church.

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  5. Sep 24, 2019 · The clip was included in Hitsville: The Making of Motown, which received its European premiere only a few hours after Berry Gordy Jr, the company’s founder and president, announced his retirement a couple of months before his 90th birthday. The full-length documentary — here’s the trailer — will be shown in selected cinemas on Monday ...

  6. With a variety of genres incorporated within the record company, from 1961 to 1971, Motown had 110 top 10 hits. Motown acts were enjoying a widespread popularity among black/white audiences alike where William “Smokey” Robinson stated “Into the '60s, I was still not of a frame of mind that we were not only making music, we were making ...

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