Before it rebranded as Smooth FM, and ended up sounding the same as 99% of all commercial radio stations, London’s Jazz FM used to play some pretty good tunes. This won’t be the first of the tracks laid out on this blog which started off as something I kept hearing on Jazz FM.
In the summer of 2005 they kept playing a cover version of Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Goin’ On. Normally I would be absolutely shocked at anyone having the gall to cover such a wonderful song. But this was different – it managed to make what is, in it’s original form, quite a serious, stern song (yet no less magical for it), into a living, breathing, piece of soul. It was a live version & I had no idea whose version it was.
After weeks of feverishly scrabbling for a pen every time it was played, only for them to resist reading out the name of the artist, I finally managed to catch the surname – Hathaway. iTunes at the time didn’t seem to have anything by an artist of that name covering What’s Goin’ On. My lucky break came on the fantsatic site The Covers Project, which was able to tell me that Donny Hathaway was the man who had created this wonderful cover of Marvin Gaye’s finest 3 -minutes.
Finding it proved no less easy. As I have said, iTunes was no good. Amazon proved no better – or at least not on vinyl. As with so many other of these tracks it was eBay which came to my rescue. When the album arrived it proved to be a thing of rare beauty indeed. The cover version of What’s Goin’ On opens the Donny Hathaway Live album, but the rest of the album manages to keep up the pace.
The 2nd song for example is a fantastic version of The Ghetto – more recently covered by jazz legend George Benson. But that’s another story. As is the fact that this cover version of What’s Goin’ On by Donny Hathaway has itself been used as a sample by hip-hop masters Grand Puba on the fine rap track Baby What’s Your Name? Now that’s what I call recycling.
For those poor folk who don’t know what the original of What’s Going On? sounds like, have a look at this video of Marvin Gaye..
UPDATE: If you love this song. or the original by Marvin Gaye, as much as me, there’s a piece of limited edition art work that you should buy. It’s the lyrics to one of the verses of What’s Goin’ On? done as a screen-print from the lovely folks at Airside, and it’s great. There are only 300 available and I have one, so you may need to move fast!