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Iconic Motown single "What's Going On" gets its own day in Michigan
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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The Motown Museum begins a year-long celebration for the 50th anniversary of Marvin Gaye's landmark "What's Going On Album" on Tuesday, Jan. 19 -- with a little love from its home state.



Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared Wednesday, Jan. 20, as "What's Going On Day" in the state, honoring the album's socially conscious title track. The track, recorded during 1970 at Motown Records' studios in Detroit, was released as a single that day, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Cash Box Top 100 charts.



Co-written by Gaye and the Four Tops' Renaldo "Obie" Benson and inspired by police violence Benson witnessed in Berkeley, Calif., during May of 1969, it features a spoken interlude with Detroit Lions Mel Farr and Lem Barney. It's included among the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2010 it ranked No. 4 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.



In a statement, Whitmer said that, "Having this tribute on the calendar provides us with an important moment -- one where we can come together as a unified state to pause, reflect and appreciate the need for ideas, perspective, love and understanding. These are values that mean more today than ever before.



"Through the recognition of’ What’s Going On Day, we hope to bring awareness to Marvin Gaye's profound words as his timeless music remains in our hearts and minds and continues inspiring generations to come."



The proclamation is the first of what the museum says will be "several moments" planned to celebrate the Gaye-produced "What's Going On" album, which was released May 21, 1971 and featured the subsequent singles "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)." Last year Rolling Stone ranked it No. 1 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.



To join in the commemoration, the museum is asking fans to post reflections about "What's Going On" via its social media channels. Subsequent events will include "virtual celebrations, signature events and an infusion of Gaye's legacy" into programs such as the singing competition AMPLIFY: The Sound of Detroit and Motown MIC: The Spoken Word.



"This is a significant moment for the museum, our community, and Motown fans all around the world, and we’re thankful that the State of Michigan has partnered with us to recognize this date as we begin our year-long celebration of this album," Motown Museum CEO Robin Terry said in a statement. "As we come out of a very challenging year, it's more important than ever to reflect on Marvin Gaye’s prolific and timeless lyrics to inspire a spirit of connection in 2021. What's Going On Day will serve as a reminder of his impact and legacy, bringing awareness to the issues of today, encouraging active dialogue between groups and individuals and acknowledging the important role Motown music continues to play in uniting us all."



Updates about the "What's Going On" celebration will be posted via motownmuseum.org.

Web Site: www.motownmuseum.org

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