Marvin Gaye and “What’s Going On” Five Decades Later


By Abayomi Azikiwe – March 7, 2021

1970-71 were years of unrest and upheaval in the United States when racial turmoil, an unpopular imperialist war in southeast Asia and a declining environment were major concerns of socially conscious people.

In the city of Detroit, Motown records had been formed by Berry Gordy in 1959 and would, over the period of the 1960s, become a significant force in shaping youth culture among African Americans and the population in general.

Gordy was the son of African American migrants from the southern state of Georgia. His family settled in the lower east side of the city in areas labeled as Black Bottom and Paradise Valley. His father, Berry Gordy, Sr., operated a small business in the community.

Later Berry Jr. would work in automotive manufacturing where he saw the potential for the mass production of music directly generated largely in the Black communities of Detroit. He would utilize a loan from family members to launch the company which would take several years to reach international acclaim. Detroit had long been a center of musical expertise in the fields of Jazz, Blues, Gospel and Rhythm & Blues, and Gordy was eager to tap into this vast array of talent and creative genius.

Hundreds of people were recruited by the Motown corporation as singers, musicians, writers, producers, managers, technical assistants, etc. The existence of Motown provided opportunities to African Americans in Detroit and other regions of the United States to excel and create new public images within the broader society….

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