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Track Anatomy “What’s Going On”: Happy Birthday to Marvin Gaye, R.I.P.!!!!!!

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If he were still physically alive, Marvin Gaye would have turned 70 years old today… R.I.P. Marvin…  Here is some info on the creation of one of his many classic tracks “What’s Going On”…

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“The rhythm section in the Snakepit was a departure: the atmosphere was loose; there was whiskey for the musicians and marijuana for Marvin (Listen to the loud toke into the microphone at 3:12). Marvin played piano and percussion.  Bassist James Jamerson by all accounts came in hung over and had to play his part laying down (on his back) on the floor. Yet Jamerson’s wife, who normally heard little about his sessions, remembered James the next day telling her he had just cut a classic…

For the Lead vocal Marvin overdubbed several parts.  When he couldn’t decide which one to use, he asked Hitsville engineer Ken Sands to put one on the left  channel and one on the right.  When the reference mix was played back in mono, Marvin heard both leads in harmony-a happy accident he embraced…

Marvin delivered a mix to a quality control meeting.  Berry Gordy refused to release it (:/), and needing a new Marvin Gaye record,  instead released a greatest hits compilation.  “My attitude had to be firm,” Marvin said.  “Basically I [told Motown], ‘Put it out or I’ll never record for you again.’  That was my ace in the hole, and I had to play it.”  The record was eventually released.  The move angered Gordy until he heard the sales orders: 100,000 pieces in one day. “

& here is a ridiculously great live performance of “What’s Going On”…

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  • http://boinc.vanderbilt.edu/CSB/view_profile.php?userid=1660 mark

    thanks !! very helpful post!

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