This Saturday is a good day to be a Marvin Gaye fan. That’s because Atlantans who love Gaye will have the opportunity to check out a live musical tribute to the 40th anniversary of his iconic What’s Going On album.
The tribute is slated to feature performances by a bevy of soul luminaries — including Anthony David, Avery Sunshine, Julie Dexter, Phonte, Rahbi Raw, and many more — performing the groundbreaking LP in its entirety.
But before anyone takes the stage, Creative Loafing reached out to one the event’s organizers — WCLK radio personality Jamal Ahmed — and got more details about the upcoming proceedings, as well as the legacy of Gaye’s life and sound.
Creative Loafing: How has Marvin's What's Going On album affected the current generation of soul artists — both musically and from a social justice perspective?
Jamal Ahmad: That album has been considered by many in the world of pop to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, albums ever recorded. When you talk about the current generation of soul artists, this record is like a sonic Bible for them! Marvin Gaye, along with the Funk Brothers, laid down a sonic template that is still being utilized and duplicated to this day. And the messages have pretty much stayed the same since 1971. I think Marvin taught soul artists how to craft really strong, infectious songs, while relaying a sincere message of hope.
You've been involved with organizing a number of these tribute concerts. How do you go about selecting the artists for each show?
I just try to get the “creme de la crème” of our generation, who will be professional and guarantee that the songs are delivered the strongest way possible. We are extremely blessed in Atlanta to have some of the world’s greatest contemporary soul singer/musicians in our own backyard. So it was very easy to come up with a comprehensive list of artist who could bring their own magic to this tribute and who understand the magnitude of what's going on — pun intended.
With the concept being that you're presenting the album in its entirety, what kinds of renditions can we expect from the artists? Will these be faithful covers — or remixed versions?
Some of the songs will be performed faithfully and some artists will be personalizing the songs to fit them. Because we will have some strong, type-A personalities on stage, expect some different versions of the songs performed.
Lastly, what's your favorite track from the What's Going On album?
My favorite song on the album is "Right On" because it has a bluesy/Latin feel that you never hear in music. Plus the words and the vibe to that song are just downright soulful!
Featuring Anthony David, Phonté, Avery Sunshine, Carmen Rodgers, Julie Dexter, Joey Sommerville, Rahbi, Kipper Jones, the Darryl Reeves Group. $30-$45. 8 p.m.-10 p.m. Sat., Dec. 10. Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech, 349 Ferst Drive. www.ferstcenter.gatech.edu.
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