Donny Hathaway: What's Going On


What's Going On


Donny Hathaway (vocals, electric piano)


Live (Atlantic 780272)

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Donny Hathaway (vocals, electric piano), Willie Weeks (bass), Phil Upchurch (guitar),

Tom Howard (guitar), Fred White (drums), Earl DeRouen (percussion)


Composed by Renaldo “Obie” Benson, Al Cleveland, and Marvin Gaye


Recorded: Hollywood, early 1972


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

Donny Hathaway's "What's Going On" injects a completely different sensibility into a tune heavy in sociopolitical significance. The once-somber message is transformed into an upbeat funk celebration that removes the focus from the lyrics, and you may forget that Marvin Gaye penned the original once you get lost in Willie Weeks' deep soul bass, which bops mightily and leads the way as the most interesting element of the recording.

While you may hear about the virtues of James Jamerson and Chuck Rainey more often, Weeks deserves mention alongside both players, as the fluidity and inventiveness of his bass is often stunning many years after it was laid down. It takes awhile to digest this fully, because the embellishments are heavily steeped in Hathaway's theory training; as the sole voice, he consciously sings many harmony lines that replace the expected melodies that Marvin Gaye mapped out. The tonality of his electric piano is crisp, jazz chords abound, and the band is in top form on the night of recording.

While this certainly isn't Kind of Blue nor even "Afro Blue," this is a track well worth your dime, your time, or, quite possibly, both.

Reviewer: Marcus Singletary


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