From the very first cut, Marvin Gaye’s soulful What’s Going On is a reflection of a time complicated by social issues and the Vietnam War. The album consists of nine song and represents a song cycle. In fact, the album is told from a unique point of view – that of a returning Vietnam War veteran.
In 1971, Rolling Stone said “Gaye has designed his album as one many-faceted statement on conditions in the world today, made nearly seamless by careful transitions between the cuts.”
Motown’s Berry Gordy was not pleased, famously stating that What’s Going On was the worst song he had ever heard. Defiant, Gaye said he would never record for Motown again unless the track was released as a single. He won.
The song would go on to become a hit and the album would receive both commercial and critical success, which led to Gaye resigning with Motown later that year for $1 million dollars – the richest contract for a black recording artist at the time.
But What’s Going On was much more than a success, it represents the beginning of socially conscious music coming from Motown and has been recognized as one of the greatest album’s of all-time by Rolling Stone.
We love the songs, we love the man. If you don’t own What’s Going On you should.