“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye


The Godfather

Today let’s look at a Classic Bass Line by the undisputed Godfather of the Electric Bass James Jamerson.  This track has all the Jamerson elements – fluid lines, driving syncopation with chromatic passing tones,  trademark huge P-bass tone – all wrapped up in one simultaneously elegant and aggressive groove.  No one has influenced more bass players that Jamerson.

Look for a detailed Know Your Player on Jamerson in the future.  If you can’t wait, click here for some quick bio info.

Today’s line is from the Marvin Gaye hit “What’s Going On.”  The song is in the key of E major, so stay in modified 2nd position.  The chord changes are here, and the Tabs are here.  Jamerson played this track on his 1962 Fender Precision Bass with heavy flatwound strings, and he only picked with his index finger on his right hand (nicknamed “The Claw”).

Below is the original recording, the isolated bass track, and a great cover by Milan Hartsuiker.

“What’s Going On” Original Recording


Isolated Bass


Great Cover by Milan Hartsuiker