#ListenToMarvin #WhatsGoingOn #OriginalMix
Marvin Gaye changed EVERYTHING with ‘What’s Going On’. If you don’t know about it, go Google that mug and read about it.
I was lucky enough to have a family on both sides that had this album around for me to discover. It was in every house I slept in. There was no one for me not to hear it…and for that, I am thankful.
I specifically recall listening to it with my Uncle Tim and him breaking down what some of the songs were about and the issues being discussed. I was probably like 5 years old, man! I’m talking about God, war, peace, the ecology, and how we treat each other with my Uncle, listening to Marvin Gaye…
I was so very blessed.
Of course, it was the first Marvin Gaye album I bought when I started building my own music collection. I listen to it every year. I always come back to it. I always marvel at it. I always turn someone on to it.
Many of you are probably familiar with ‘What’s Going On’, which is basically ‘The soul ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band’. I would hope you are; it’s one of the greatest albums of any genre of all time. Truly magnificent to this day…
This is the version of the album that Marvin originally wanted to release. It’s actually on the ‘Deluxe Edition’ of the album, which also contains a live performance of the entire album. Slim says check that out…
Y’all listen to Marvin, man. He was saying things about are relevant to this day. He was talking about the human condition from a beautiful, tortured spirit.
Peace, y’all. Slim loves ya…be great.
#TheMarvinCode - What’s Going On With ‘What’s Going On’
Today, outta nowhere while I was doing the dishes, I started singing a familiar refrain…
“Don’t go and talk about my father. God is my friend.” - Lord, I love that song. I love ‘What’s Going On’ so much. That album has been in my life as long as I can remember, from my Uncle Tim and Aunt Jan both owning the vinyl (one of the ones that they just couldn’t share…I understand COMPLETELY…) to me purchasing the cassette when I got my first boombox (yeah) to the deluxe edition CD I own now and the way the songs pop up in my head and outta my mouth like they did today.
It was at this point I realized that I listen to this album every year around this time. In fact, I am pretty certain My Aunt Jan has played this on Christmas when we’ve gone to her house on more than one occasion. Anyway, I went and grabbed the CD and got in the truck.
I jammed. I sang. I smiled…and ‘Flyin’ High (In The Friendly Sky)’ came on with all it’s, glockenspieled-up, magnificent glory when this idea started buzzing in my head.
“Yo…this is a CHRISTMAS ALBUM, TOOOOOOO!!!”
Yup, ‘What’s Going On’ doubles as a welcome-home record to Marvin’s brother coming home from Vietnam and an album documenting the ‘Christmas Experience’ in America. Yeah, it does….
I’ll try to break it down as completely as possible, but you may not hear ‘What’s Going On’ the same way anymore. I’ve been listening to it all day and all I’m hearing is ‘Christmas’. (Of course it IS December 22, but anyway doe……..)
The production of the album is so Christmas (GLOCKENSPIELS! CHOIRS!), I don’t know how I never noticed this stuff before.
Album starts of with the title track…at a family Christmas party. They’re definitely at a party and everybody is catching up on what has happened over the last year. Mama’s there and Daddy’s there and Marvin is asking everybody to chill and just enjoy us all being together again (“We don’t need to escalate…”) Marvin has to explain his beard and nappy natural (awesome) hair to his folks (“Who are they to judge us, simply cuz our hair is long?”
‘What’s Happening, Brother’; at this point, Marvin and his brother have left the party to get caught up…maybe even *makes joint rolling motion*. You know you can’t talk freely around the folks, man…they get caught up. “Are they still getting down where we used to go and dance…?” Small talk, but things that let you know these people have a long-standing bond. (This song could also double as the small talk you make when you see a classmate or someone vaguely familiar standing in line at the store buying that toy your kid HAD to have.)
‘Flying High (In The Friendly Sky)’ - tryptophan? Maybe. This is where the album starts to get ‘snowy’ too, yo. It sounds like a slow drive home from wherever they went to get away from the madness that can be family holiday gatherings. And if you take the ‘they just went shopping angle’, there’s some lines that totally describe the joy some people get in finding that perfect gift. “Flying high in the friendly sky…without ever leaving the ground.” The place “where danger awaits me” could just as easily describe the mall as it does heroin (don’t believe it? You know someone who spent entirely too much money on Christmas gifts this year…I know you do.)
‘Save The Children’ - This song is sung in a ‘round’, just like ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ (think Bing and Bowie). And who is Christmas in the traditional way America views it really for? Children. Absolutely. Choirs and bells everywhere building to a wonderful faster crescendo, the sax comes in and you are sledding, pal…and that leads to…
‘God Is Love’ - the TRUE meaning of Christmas. One of two true ‘Linus moments’ on the album where we are reminded of the reason for the season. If we can’t afford all them fancy toys and such, we have each other and we are thankful. “He gave us everything…(not Santa)”…and this song mentions Jesus, just as the song before it did.
‘Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)’ - Sitting around and telling stories of Christmases past before we have this wonderful dinner…”Things ain’t what they used to be.” Granddaddy always gotta keep it real. He does this every Christmas.”This is the world we live in today and this is why we should enjoy our time together.” ‘Mercy Mercy Me’ is definitely not a phrase a young man would be using, either. Marvin channeled the old man and broke it down for the kids…
‘Right On’ - You could take this song and place it in ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ and no one would bat an eye or prick up an ear. It sounds just like Vince Guaraldi’s work on that soundtrack. It’s gotta woozy middle section to before it kicks back in. Totally reminds me of that reeeeeeal heavy tired you get in the middle of Christmas day when you’ve been up since six a.m. cuz the kids were UP and WIRED and READY TO OPEN GIFTS!
‘Wholly Holy’ - “Could everyone bow their heads so I can bless the table…?” The second true ‘Linus moment’ on the album
‘Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)’ - the aftermath. ‘Bills pile up…sky high…send that boy off…to die.” Christmas was DOPE, but far too expensive and we are STILL at war. Damb.
This is just my theory, but I’m telling you, there’s a lotta Christmas-y stuff going on in ‘What’s Going On’. A LOT! I been enjoying the MESS outta it all day and I encourage you to listen to this wonderful album with perhaps a new set of ears and eyes. It’s great regardless, but maybe you’ll hear what I hear…or more.
In the name of #Shruglife, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas,
(PS - Salute one of my fave people I rap to online, Mr. Wordsworth for inspiring this post too!!)