Marvin Gaye What's Going On: Soundtrack of America
What’s Going On is not only Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece; it was a ground breaking album for Motown and for music in general. Gaye had been affected by what he had seen and heard in Vietnam and wanted to take his sound in a new direction, using it to inform and motivate people to act. Reflecting on his music, Gaye said, “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.” The result was What’s Going On, one of the most popular and critically acclaimed albums of all time.
The album is told from the point of view of a Vietnam War veteran returning to the country he had been fighting for, and seeing nothing but injustice, suffering and hatred. With What’s Going On, Gaye meditated on what had happened to the American dream of the past- as it related to urban decay, environmental woes, military turbulence, police brutality, unemployment, poverty civil unrest, drug abuse, taxes and abandoned children-themes that still resonate today. Marvin’s overarching message offered the promise of redemption through love and mutual understanding. What’s Going On is ground breaking for a soul, pop or rock record and is unsurpassed in its political commentary allied to a mixture of jazz, gospel, and soul music. It is a stunning album and rightly considered one of the finest albums ever.