Album covers analysed: Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On

Oh, there is lots going on


As statements of intent go, they don’t come much more potent and honest as the What’s Going On cover. To the naked eye, it mightn’t look radical – just another picture of a bearded guy in latex. But, should you flick back through your excellent collection of Marvin Gaye records before this 1971 release, you’ll notice that every single cover was shot in a nice clean studio, Gaye in a suit, and this is the first one featuring his trademark facial arrangement. Plus, if you really squint, you’ll notice the beads of cold rain in his hair, and spattered down the side of his gigantic jacket collars. That means that this iconic photograph was taken on a rainy day – no one ever takes iconic pictures on rainy days! Essentially Gaye is declaring the album sleeve unimportant, as, it seems, are his Motown bosses. The whisper on the street being that Berry Gordy – legendary record honcho – thought it was rubbish, which clearly explains the no-expense-spent sleeve. It went on to sell about a million trillion copies, of course, rainy-face cover or not.

Enjoy a fantastic live performance after the jump…

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