Motown Museum marks 50th anniversary of 'What's Going On' with merchandise line, street renaming

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Nearly 50 years to the day after the release of Marvin Gaye's landmark "What's Going On" album, the Motown Museum is still asking that question.

The museum, which includes the Hitsville studio where the album was recorded, has hosted events all year long to pay tribute to Gaye's masterpiece and its 50th anniversary. Now, they'll kick things up a notch to mark its May 21st release with a new commemorative merchandise line and sold-out tours. And in mid-June, a street near where Gaye once lived in Detroit will be re-named Marvin Gaye Drive.

“Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ album holds as much cultural relevance today as it did 50 years ago," said Robin Terry, chief executive officer of the Motown Museum. "As the birthplace of Motown, Motown Museum is celebrating and honoring this timeless record, and Marvin’s lasting legacy, in an authentic way with a slate of new and ongoing events."

Since January, the Motown Museum, which includes the Hitsville studio where Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" was recorded, has been holding events in honor of the albums 50th anniversary.

Friday's events are the latest in a series of tributes by the museum to Gaye's beloved album, named the greatest of all time by Rolling Stone magazine last year. After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared Jan. 20 "What's Going On" Day to coordinate with the anniversary of the single, the museum has hosted a spoken word and singing competitions.

Special VIP Marvin Gaye tours on Friday are already sold out but they'll offer guests a rare glimpse behind the magic of Motown. They'll feature guest appearances from Motown alumni, who will share inside stories about Gaye and how the album came to life.

A new "What's Going on" merchandise line, meanwhile, will go on sale at 8 a.m. Friday, featuring a branded beanie inspired by Marvin’s iconic beanie, along with a commemorative lapel pin and T-shirt. More ‘What’s Going On’ branded items will be added to the collection throughout the year

A commemorative 50th anniversary "What's Going On" beanie is part of a new merchandise collection available on Friday through the Motown Museum.

And on June 19, the intersection of West Outer Drive and Monica Street, near Gaye's former Detroit home, will be named Marvin Gaye Drive with a special ceremony. The push to rename the street was spearheaded by Detroit City Councilman Roy McCalister Jr.

“Marvin Gaye is an icon," said McCalister in press release. "His presence is felt and celebrated in Detroit and throughout the world, therefore it is an honor to be a part of the commemorative anniversary celebration."

'What's Going On' merchandise, exhibits

  • Starting at 8 a.m. Friday, a special "What's Going On" merchandise line will be available at the Motown Museum's store. Go to
  • A photography exhibit, "Capturing a Culture Change," is now on display featuring images by Motown co-curator Jim Hendin that traces how the label's image changed during the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 70s.
  • Motown Museum is at 2648 W. Grand Boulevard in Detroit. Go to