PLEDGE NOW
Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ Turns 40

Forty years ago this month, Marvin Gaye released the album “What’s Going On,” long considered one of the greatest soul albums ever made. The song, “What’s Going On,” was one of the nine tracks on the album and was one of the first soul songs to tackle social issues head-on.

Soul singer Marvin Gaye in New York City in an undated photo. (AP)

Soul singer Marvin Gaye in New York City in an undated photo. (AP)

Today, the album is being re-released with a few studio outtakes and alternate mixes.

The song quickly became an anthem, speaking to a generation rocked by tumultuous events, from the war in Vietnam to the ongoing struggle for civil rights and the violence and upheaval shaking the nation’s cities.

That societal unrest profoundly affected Gaye.

“In 1969 or 1970, I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say,” Gaye told Rolling Stone. “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.”

Gaye would also penned other topical songs, including “Abraham, Martin, and John.”

“What’s Going On” was both a commercial and critical success, though the tune did have its doubters. Motown founder Berry Gordy, for instance, panned it. “What’s Going On” was later issued as a single without Gordy’s knowledge, according to author Ben Edmonds.

In 2002, On Point talked with Edmonds and took a look at the famous song in the context of its time.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
May 27, 2016
Riot police block off the Albuquerque Convention Center to anti-Trump protests following a rally and speech by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the convention center where the event was held, in Albuquerque, N.M., Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Obama at Hiroshima. Turmoil at Trump rallies. Clinton’s emails, heating up. Sanders predicts a “messy” convention. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

May 27, 2016
In this Oct. 27, 2015, photo,  Big Muddy Farms, an urban farm in northern Omaha, Neb. is seen amongst residential homes. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, we’ve got top gardeners spilling the beans on how to grow everything.

RECENT
SHOWS
May 27, 2016
In this Oct. 27, 2015, photo,  Big Muddy Farms, an urban farm in northern Omaha, Neb. is seen amongst residential homes. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, we’ve got top gardeners spilling the beans on how to grow everything.

 
May 27, 2016
Riot police block off the Albuquerque Convention Center to anti-Trump protests following a rally and speech by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the convention center where the event was held, in Albuquerque, N.M., Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Obama at Hiroshima. Turmoil at Trump rallies. Clinton’s emails, heating up. Sanders predicts a “messy” convention. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
In The Garden, Mother Nature Makes The Rules
Friday, May 27, 2016

Executive producer Karen Shiffman explains why she turns to her garden for food, friends and natrual comfort.

More »
Comment
 
WWII Vet Larry Kirby Reflects On American Values
Thursday, May 26, 2016

Looking ahead to Memorial Day, a World War II veteran looks back at the experiences that mattered to him, both in and out of war.

More »
Comment
 
Gloria Steinem Explains Her ‘Bernie Boys’ Comment
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Feminist activist Gloria Steinem explains why her apparent diss of female supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders was anything but.

More »
Comment