90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
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
Oct 22, 2014
Health workers carry the body of a woman suspected of contracting the Ebola virus in Bomi county situated on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. (AP)

We’ll go to Liberia, and hear from a pastor and a physician at the epicenter of the Ebola crisis.

Oct 22, 2014
Authors Nicholas Kristof and wife Sheryl WuDunn attend the premiere of "Meena" at the AMC Loews Theater on Thursday, June 26, 2014 in New York.

Author and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof says regular folks like us can change the world. He explains how. Plus: we remember the late, great Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 21, 2014
This undated image provided by Google, shows an early version of Google's prototype self-driving car. For the first time, California's Department of Motor Vehicles knows how many self-driving cars are traveling on the state's public roads. The agency is issuing permits, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014 that let three companies test 29 vehicles on highways and in neighborhoods. (AP)

The future of the car: from the fuels they’ll run on, to the materials they’ll be made of, to the computers that may drive them.

 
Oct 21, 2014
David Perdue, Michelle Nunn

Two weeks to go till Midterm Election Day. We’ll look at how the biggest issues are playing out around the country.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Introducing The Explicast: A New Podcast From On Point Radio
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Confused about the news? Don’t worry: so are we sometimes! Introducing a new On Point Radio podcast: The Explicast. You can find Episode One right here.

More »
1 Comment
 
Two LIVE Tracks From Jazz Violinist Regina Carter
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Regina Carter shares two live tracks — one arrangement, and one original composition — with Tom Ashbrook in the On Point studio.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: October 17, 2014
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

We talk Facebook mishaps, whether Katy Perry was actually right and the glory of architectural giants and their iconic windows.

More »
Comment