It was an entirely different era … sure there was war and our kids were dying in far off lands for questionable causes, but everything about the way it was handled and perceived was different. And into the mess of the post-Woodstock Zeitgeist Marvin Gaye launched an album that simultaneously soothed and questioned. This week marks forty years since “What’s Going On?” hit record stores and the airwaves.
To mark the anniversary, Motown is putting together a 40th Anniversary edition 2-CD/LP ‘super set'(Amazon link). According to his :
On May 21, 1971, Motown Records released an album unique to its vast, already classic catalog: a suite of protest songs, railing, albeit softly and with an undeniable groove, about the planet’s woes and the pain of war. With What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye forever changed the sound and subject matter of popular music, influencing and inspiring every generation since. Formerly Motown’s reigning smooth-faced, smiling, mass-appeal artist, this album was Gaye’s departure for the bearded, brooding, reflective, angry artist he would become. His first self-production, the album was written, sung and solely produced by Gaye.
Forty years on, the album remains a timeless classic. Speaking boldly and passionately about social issues on the street unlike any other album before, What’s Going On provided a soundtrack to life in America—and still does. It was a smash from the start and it’s still one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top ten Greatest Albums of All Time. Two songs from this album are in the Grammy® Hall of Fame, which honors the most important recordings in history.
Regardless of anything else, this song captures a time and yet remains timeless. It speaks to a generation and yet echoes the hearts of all generations. It is a true classic that deserves to be heard and never forgotten.