Banjoist Alison Brown Covers Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On'

Brett Warren
Alison Brown

Grammy award-winning banjoist Alison Brown is back with her first album in six years and she’s premiering one of her anticipated tracks on Billboard below.

The album, titled The Song of the Banjo, features both original songs by Brown as well as a number of cover songs that are given new life with the flare of Brown’s banjo. Today, Brown is premiering her cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” with featured vocals by singer Keb’ Mo’

Brown says that recent events across the nation are what inspired her to take on the song, which calls for love and understanding.

“‘What’s Going On?’ is such a big song, bordering on sacred really, that initially I was afraid to touch it,” she said. “But with the events in South Carolina and elsewhere this summer the song's message seemed as relevant as ever.”

While Gaye’s original is soaked with sounds of R&B, Brown’s take, with her banjo and the piano riffs by pianist Joe Davidian, is able to reinvent the song while keeping the soulful spirit at its core.

“I think just having a banjo on this song, with its deep legacy in American music, makes an interesting musical statement,” adds Brown.

Alison Brown’s cover of "What's Going On" is a bonus track featured on the deluxe edition of The Song of the Banjo which will be released on Oct. 9.