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Unseen Marvin Gaye shot

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Looking good while getting drenched in a kids’ playground is not an easy look to pull off — but back when this photo was taken, Marvin Gaye was the coolest man on the planet.

This is one of the previously unseen images from Jim Hendin’s What’s Going On cover session that will feature, along with rare and unreleased music, on the super-deluxe edition of the album released to celebrate the record’s 40th anniversary. It captures the singer — who died in 1984 — secure in the knowledge that he’d just made not only one of the greatest albums of all time, but also a record that broke about every mould going.

Before What’s Going On emerged in 1971, soul music had largely served as a soundtrack to what people in 1971 called “making lurve”. What’s Going On, with its social commentary and anti-Vietnam War stance, changed all that; re-inventing the genre as a vehicle for social change. Without it, hip-hop would never have happened.

Ironically, Gaye’s record label Tamla Motown originally didn’t want him to go down the political route, but after the title track became a hit, the company changed its mind.

The photograph shows a man about to announce his genius to the world. Those bikes were still way too small for him, though.

What’s Going On: 40th Anniversary is released on 4 July

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