On this day in music history: May 21, 1971 - “What’s Going On”, the eleventh studio album by Marvin Gaye is released. Produced by Marvin Gaye, it is recorded at Motown Studio A, Golden World Studios (Motown Studio B), United Sound Studios in Detroit, MI and the Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA from June 1970, March - May 1971. A concept album focusing on the subjects of poverty, drug abuse, and war, its messages immediately resonate with the public. Following the huge success of the title track as a single, Motown demands a full album to go with it ASAP. Recording with Motown’s studio band The Funk Brothers, the basic tracks and vocals for the album is recorded in only ten days of studio time. The initial version of the album, now known as the “Detroit Mix” is mixed by Motown engineers while Gaye is off in California filming a movie. After hearing the initial mix, Gaye orders them shelved and send for the tapes while in California. He adds additional overdubs to several tracks, and completely remixes and re-sequences the album with engineer Lawrence Miles. The album is immediately recognized by critics and the public as an important artistic musical statement upon its release, as well as being a major commercial success. It spins off three singles including “Mercy Mercy Me” (#1 R&B, #4 Pop), “Inner City Blues” (#1 R&B, #9 Pop) and the title track (#1 R&B, #2 Pop). “What’s Going On” spends nine weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number six on the Top 200, is certified 6x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998.
Andy Warhol with Stevie Wonder backstage Madison Square Garden, at a Rolling Stones show Stevie opened, July 26, 1972 (Mick’s 29th birthday). A legendary show! Read about it here. Photo via Christie’s, my edit.
On this day in music history: April 3, 1971 - “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” by The Temptations hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 3 weeks on March 6, 1971. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it is the third pop and tenth R&B chart topper for the superstar Motown vocal quintet. Whitfield and Strong actually write “Just My Imagination” a couple of years before it is recorded. Going over some of their previous song ideas, they revive the song with Strong quickly writing the lyrics.The track is recorded at Motown Studio A on November 24, 1970, with the Funk Brothers providing musical support, with The Tempts adding their vocals on December 3, 1970. Released as a single on January 14, 1971, it quickly flies up the charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #71 on February 6, 1971, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” is also the final Temptations single to feature Eddie Kendricks on lead vocals, who leaves the group for a solo career shortly after its chart topping success. The song is covered a number of times over the years, most notably by The Rolling Stones, Booker T. & The MG’s, Dianne Reeves and Boyz II Men. “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 15, 1976 - “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks on May 29, 1976. Written by Pam Sawyer and Marilyn McLeod, it is the second R&B and fourth pop chart topper for the Motown superstar. With the departure of The Jackson 5 from Motown after the release of their album “Moving Violation”, producer Hal Davis is left without his top act after working together for five years. During this time he hears the original demo of “Love Hangover” in a Motown colleague’s office. Instantly excited about the songs hit potential, he cuts it right away. Recorded at Paramount Studios in Hollywood in mid 1975, it features musicians such as Joe Sample (keyboards), James Gadson (drums), and Henry Davis (of the band L.T.D.) (bass) playing on the track. Davis also comes up with the idea for the songs signature dual tempos, which the musicians are initially resistant to, but he convinces them otherwise. Shortly after, Davis plays the completed track for Berry Gordy who hears it as a smash for Diana Ross. Though initially, Ross doesn’t care for the song, but agrees to record it at Gordy’s urging. Upon arriving at the studio, Davis pours her a drink and they get to work. The producer has recording engineer Russ Terrana install a strobe light in the vocal booth to add some ambiance to the session, helping to put Ross in the proper frame of mind. The end results of which are heard on the finished record. “Love Hangover” is rush released as a single in March of 1976 when a competing version by The 5th Dimension is released on ABC Records just before it. Both versions enter the chart the same week on April 3, 1976, with The 5th Dimension’s version stalling at #80 on the Hot 100 the week of April 24, 1976, while Ross’ version soars to the top of the chart three weeks later. Ross’ version of “Love Hangover” also receives a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female in 1977. The song is also remixed twice, first in 1988 by Phil Harding of PWL (Pete Waterman Limited), and again in 1993 by Frankie Knuckles and Joey Negro for a remix album titled “Diana Extended: The Remixes”.
“I think it was a predestined thing. My mother tells this story of taking me to a Catholic church when I was 2, and the priest was chanting. I was in the back of the church, and when I heard the chanting I jumped up and started singing Harry Belafonte’s ‘Day-O.’ I think God already knew I loved black music.”-Teena Marie
On this day in music history: March 3, 1972 - “Music Of My Mind”, the fourteenth studio album by Stevie Wonder is released. Produced by Stevie Wonder, Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil, it is recorded Media Sound Studios, Electric Lady Studios in New York City, and Crystal Industries in Los Angeles, CA from Mid 1971 - Early 1972. After recording for Motown since the age of 12, Stevie Wonder’s contract with the label expires when he turns twenty one years old on May 13, 1971. In spite of millions in record sales and earnings generated, he discovers that there is only $1 million held in trust for him. Instead of renewing his contract with Motown, he moves to New York and begins working with Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil of Tonto’s Expanding Head Band who assist him in taking his music to the next level. Experimenting with synthesizers, Wonder block books studio time and records for several months before re-emerging with a new sound and career direction. Having fielded several offers from rival record companies, he re-signs with Motown Records, but strictly on his own terms. He negotiates a deal that gives him complete artistic control, his own music publishing company, and one of the highest royalty rates in the music business. Released as the first album under his new deal, “Music” is a major turning point for Stevie Wonder, beginning an era that produces some of his most critically acclaimed and commercially successful work. Spinning off two singles including “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” (#13 R&B, #33 Pop) and “Keep On Running” (#36 R&B, #90 Pop). “Music Of My Mind” peaks at number six on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number twenty one on the Top 200.