“He was shot to death the day before his 45th birthday on April 1, 1984 — by his own father. Everyone remembers the death of Marvin Gaye. And everyone remembers the music he made. But the life he lived isn’t nearly as familiar. A new American Masters portrait, "Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On," aims to fill in the gaps.” (Orlando Sun-Sentinel)
“But knowing the destination doesn’t have to spoil the journey, and thanks to Gaye, whose music here is tied effectively to the ups and downs of his nearly 45 years, it’s a trip worth taking, however bumpy the road.” (Ellen Gray, Philadelphia Daily News)
“Unfortunately, it also feels a bit thin, especially when it comes to Gaye’s incalculable impact on the evolution of black popular music… Emmy-winning writer-director Sam Pollard is more interested in Gaye’s troubled family and ensuing psychic struggles, and he focuses his film on the inner conflict that paved the way for Gaye to follow up his deeply spiritual, socially charged magnum opus with "Let’s Get It On," one of the most erotic collections in pop music.” (Joan Anderman, Boston Globe)
“Perhaps the most entertaining (sorry, given the circumstances of Gaye’s life and death, but it is) and enjoyable "American Masters" in this worthy PBS series’ history. You will watch, rapt, from the opening second to the last. Plus, the music. What more can be said, other than "Masters" is both judicious and generous with the clips, revealing a master of genuine vocal beauty and subtlety.” (Verne Gaye, Newsday)
“All that’s really missing from What’s Going On is a look at Gaye’s impact on the R&B of today. Would there be an R. Kelly, another prodigious and troubled talent split between the pulpit and the street, without Gaye? How about the rapper Common, whose dapper street style, down to the ubiquitous knit cap, springs directly from What’s Going On -era Gaye?” (Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News)
Not quite an injustice to the singer who rose in the Motown system and created a monolithic pop masterpiece, but "What’s Going On?" does not elevate the subject in the manner of other "AM" docs. Through his biographers and fellow artists, a portrait of a man who suffered and masked his pain emerges along with the vision of a man who fought the secular and the religious his whole life. Doc confirms rather than enhances what is already known about him. (Phil Gallo, Variety)
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