What’s Going On chords by Marvin Gaye


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What’s Going On | Chords + Lyrics

Intro

||: Emaj9 (E69) | Emaj9 (E69) :||

Verse 1

| Emaj9 | Emaj9 | C#m7 | C#m7 |
Mother, mother. There’s too many of you crying.
| Emaj9 | Emaj9 | C#m7 | C#m7 |
Brother, brother, brother. There’s far too many of you dying.
| F#m9 | F#m9 |
You know we’ve got to find a way. To bring some
| B13sus4 | B13 |
lovin’ here today, yeah.

Verse 2

| Emaj9 | Emaj9 | C#m7 | C#m7 |
Father, father. We don’t need to escalate.
| Emaj9 | Emaj9 | C#m7 | C#m7 |
You see, war is not the answer. For only love can conquer hate.
| F#m9 | F#m9 |
You know we’ve got to find a way, To bring some
| B13sus4 | B13 |
lovin’ here today.

Bridge 1

| F#m7 | B9 | F#m7 | B9 |
Picket lines and picket signs. Don’t punish me with brutality.
| F#m7 | B9 |
Talk to me, so you can see.

Chorus 1

| Emaj7 | C#m7 | Emaj7 | C#m7 |
Oh, what’s going on (What’s going on). What’s going on (What’s going on).
| Emaj7 | C#m7 | Emaj7 | C#m7 |
Yeah, what’s going on (What’s going on). Oh, what’s going on (What’s going on).

Chorus Tag

||: Cmaj7/A | Cmaj7/A :|| x4
Right on, baby. Right on, baby. Right on.
||: B13 | B13 :||
Du dee do…

Verse 3

| Emaj9 | Emaj9 | C#m7 | C#m7 |
Mother, mother. Everybody thinks we’re wrong.
| Emaj9 | Emaj9 | C#m7 | C#m7 |
Oh, but who are they to judge us. Simply ’cause our hair is long.
| F#m9 | F#m9 |
Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way. To bring some
| B13sus4 | B13 |
understanding here today.

Bridge 1

| F#m7 | B9 | F#m7 | B9 |
Picket lines and picket signs. Don’t punish me with brutality.
| F#m7 | B9 |
Come on talk to me, so you can see.

Chorus 2

| Emaj7 | C#m7 | Emaj7 | C#m7 |
What’s going on (What’s going on). Yeah, what’s going on (What’s going on).
Tell me what’s going on (What’s going on). I’ll tell you, what’s going on (What’s going on).

Chorus Tag

||: Cmaj7/A | Cmaj7/A :|| x4
Ah, right on, baby, right on. Right on, baby.
||: B13 | B13 :||
Du dee do…

Outro

||: Cmaj7/A | Cmaj7/A :|| x4
Ah, Right on, baby, right on. Right on, baby.
||: B13 | B13 :||
Du dee do…


What’s Going On’s chords and progressions

In the key of E, Marvin Gaye‘s What’s Going On’s chords mainly achieve its slick sound through natural extensions. Let’s examine each section one by one, starting with the intro.

Very similar to how the verse starts, we have an Emaj9 chord, with the occasional 6, instead of the maj7, so I’ve put an E69 chord in brackets.

If you play chord licks or improvise melodies over the intro, use the 3rd, 9th, maj7, and 6 as target notes to get the right vibe.

The verse sticks with the Emaj9, try an A shape including the 3rd, maj7, and 9. This is followed by a C#m7, Fm9, and finished off with a B13.

On the keyboard, you could play first with an 11, then without. Both would be 13 chords. On the guitar, we can’t fit all those notes in so let’s first play a sus4, then the 3rd to achieve a similar effect.

Here are all chords for What’s Going On’s verse:

| Emaj9 | Emaj9 | C#m7 | C#m7 |
| Emaj9 | Emaj9 | C#m7 | C#m7 |
| F#m9 | F#m9 |
| B13sus4 | B13 |

Next, we have the bridge, this is similar to how the verse finished, just smaller extensions in F#m7B9. The chords only have one bar each as well.

The chorus is similar to how the verse started (genius!) again, only with a chord per bar each and smaller in extensions using just Emaj7C#m7.

Finally, the chorus tag, and this is the first time we go outside the key of E major. What we have here is a modal interchange, going from E to E minor. You can even see an Em chord in the Cmaj7/A.

Should you want to improvise over this section, try an A Dorian scale, or a C Lydian. These two scales share the same notes but will make you choose different target notes.