Originally released in 1971 as a response to police violence and social injustice, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” remains just as relevant today. In honor of the groundbreaking album’s 50th anniversary, The 10,000 spoke with artists Ne-Yo, Kem, ELHAE, Asiahn and Ethiopia Habtemariam about Marvin Gaye’s legacy and how incredibly pertinent “What’s Going On” is in today’s world.
It’s been 50 years since the release of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album in May 1971. What has inspired you most about What’s Going On?
Ne-Yo: The obligation of the entertainer is simply to entertain. He has no mandatory stand to take politically or otherwise. But Marvin Gaye chose to ask burning questions and address the fact that we were receiving no answers in the best way he knew how, through his God-given talent. I’m inspired by the bravery of this album and the boldness to take a stand even when you’re not obligated to.
Kem: What inspires me most about the What’s Going On album is that it’s as relevant today as it was in 1971. What’s also inspiring is that this album was a labor of love and a testament to staying true to your artistry at all costs.
ELHAE: I think it’s a testament to the type of person Marvin Gaye was. As artists one of the jobs we have is to tell our truths, and you can clearly see in this record he was doing just that. Observing and searching for answers. Aside from that the song is just as relevant today as it was back then.
Asiahn: What Inspires me the most is his outspokenness, his willingness to use his art to shed light on what was going on in his community, in the world. As musicians we have such a power that we yield with the creation of songs. The ability to touch someone through melody and lyric is quite powerful.
Ethiopia: Marvin was able to capture the way everyone was feeling at the time providing a level of empathy and understanding. The way the song came together – the instruments, music, lyrics, his voice – he created a masterpiece that touched everyone and brought people together in a way that, 50 years later, still resonates today.