Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On: 45 years on and still a classic
Marvin Gaye’s seminal What’s Going On turned 45 yesterday. Released on May 21st, 1971, the landmark song cycle – written from the perspective of a Vietnam War veteran returning to the States – dealt with themes of drug abuse, poverty, injustice, environmental issues and the Vietnam War.
What’s Going On revolutionized music, and its subject matter is a relevant today as it was when it was released in 1971. In a Rolling Stone interview, Gaye talked about what influenced him to write the songs on the album:
“In 1969 or 1970, I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say. I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world.”
There’s been a lot written about Gaye’s classic album over the years, however CBC Radio has put together an interesting collection of facts about the record, contributing to the back story of the album. One of the most known stories about the record was the fact that Motown Records’ label head Berry Gordy thought the release would jeopardize Gaye’s career, and did not want to release the album’s title song as a single.
Read 45 Things You Need To Know About Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. Below, listen to the now classic album.