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What's Going On

What's Going On is an album by American soul singer Marvin Gaye. Released on 20 May 1971 (see 1971 in music), What's Going On reflected the beginning of a new trend in soul music. With introspective lyrics about drug abuse, poverty and the Vietnam War, the album was an immediate sensation and has endured as a classic of early-70s soul.

Gaye had recorded the single "What's Going On" already, and wanted to release it. Motown head Barry Gordy[?] had refused, however, calling the single "uncommercial". Gaye refused to record any more until Gordy gave in, and the song became a surprise hit in January of 1971.

What's Going On is a unified album, consisting of songs 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. Gaye's brother, Frankie, had returned from a three-year stint in the Army in 1970.

Track listing

  1. What's Going On (Benson/Cleveland/Gaye) - 3:52
  2. What's Happening Brother (Gaye/Nyx) - 2:44
  3. Flyin' High (In the Friendly Sky) (Gaye/Gaye/Stover) - 3:49
  4. Save the Children (Benson/Cleveland/Gaye) - 4:03
  5. God Is Love (Gaye/Gaye/Nyx/Stover) - 1:41
  6. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) (Gaye) - 3:13
  7. Right On (Derouen/Gaye) - 7:31
  8. Wholy Holy (Benson/Cleveland/Gaye) - 3:08
  9. Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) (Gaye/Nyx) - 5:26


  • Marvin Gaye - Piano, Drums, Keyboards, Vocals, Producer
  • Bob Babbitt - Bass
  • Eli Fountain - Sax (Alto)
  • James Jamerson - Bass
  • Joe Messina - Guitar
  • David Van De Pitte - Arranger, Conductor
  • Earl Van Dyke - Guitar
  • Wild Bill Moore - Sax (Tenor)
  • Chet Forest - Drums
  • Katherine Marking - Design
  • Alana Coghlan - Design
  • John Matousek - Mastering
  • Robert White - Guitar
  • Hendin - Photography
  • Curtis McNair - Art Direction

Chart positions Billboard Music Charts (North America) - albums

 1971	What's Going On	       Pop Albums	                No. 6
 1971	What's Going On	       Black Albums	                No. 1
 1984	What s Going On	       The Billboard 200	        No. 154
Billboard Music Charts (North America) - singles
 1971	Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)	     Pop Singles        No. 9
 1971	Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)	     Black Singles      No. 1

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