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Published on Mar 20, 2016
One of the greatest songs ever. Almost never got released
Marvin Gaye...."What's Going On"
We owe so much to "Let's Get it On," and the fact that at one time Marvin Gaye wasn't given his way is downright terrifying, but it's true. About a decade into his career, Gaye had already established himself as an extraordinarily singular Motown talent, despite frequently bristling against the regimented structure of the Detroit label. "What's Going On" pleads for understanding. In the background of the master track, you can hear a party going on from which Gaye's voice is markedly detached; a lonely, but passionate, voice in the crowd. The result of Gaye's complex songwriting, mixed with his abilities as a producer and an arranger was startlingly different from anything previously released by Motown. When the final master 45 was presented for release, The CEO of Motown called it "the worst record he had ever heard." Gordy apparently believed that the music-buying public at the time would not be able to identify with a heartfelt cry of confusion and despair over social unrest and injustice. Guessing he hadn't picked up a newspaper since early November of 1963.Marvin stood his ground, however, threatening to walk away from music forever and, after a short stand-off, "What's Going On" was released, and critical and commercial response was almost instant. It became Motown's fastest selling single, the biggest hit of 1971,