Marvin Gaye ‎– What's Going On

Motown ‎– 530 022-2
CD, Album, Reissue


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

Companies, etc.



From inside front inlay:
© 1971 Jobete Music Company, Inc.

From back inlay:
℗ 1971 Motown Record Company, L.P.
© 1993 Motown Record Company, L.P.

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Barcode: 7 31453 00222 7
  • Matrix / Runout (Variant 1): 5300222/H 01 &
  • Matrix / Runout (Variant 2): 530 022-2 03 +
  • Matrix / Runout (Stamped mould text): MADE IN GERMANY BY PMDC A
  • Rights Society: B.I.E.M. STEMRA
  • Other (Distribution Code): POL 899
  • Label Code: LC 0881

Other Versions (5 of 194) View All

Cat# Artist Title (Format) Label Cat# Country Year
TS-310, TS310 Marvin Gaye What's Going On(LP, Album, Gat) Tamla, Tamla TS-310, TS310 US 1971 Sell This Version
12/24024 Marvin Gaye Mercy, Mercy Me(LP, Album, RE) Platinum (2) 12/24024 Germany 1985 Sell This Version
LI-60136 Marvin Gaye What's Going On(LP, Album, RE) Motown LI-60136 Spain 1984 Sell This Version
0600753279557 Marvin Gaye What's Going On(2xCD, Album, Dlx, RE, RM) Motown 0600753279557 Europe 2010 Sell This Version
5300221, 530 022-1 Marvin Gaye What's Going On(LP, Album, RE, Gat) Tamla, Tamla 5300221, 530 022-1 US 2012 Sell This Version



Add Review



May 13, 2016

The utter genius and legendary Marvin Gaye remains one of the most outstanding, influential and innovative artist's in Soul music; In fact popular music in general. His unparalled, undisputed talents set standards for generations to come and he continues to inspire after over thirty years of his tragic, untimely death. While most of his output during the 1970s were both cohesive and critically-acclaimed, 'What's Going On' is, arguably, his most ever-green work.

Surprisingly, the song 'What's Going On' nearly didn't happen. It seems inconceivable now, but Motown boss Berry Gordy didn't understand or appreciate the songs depth upon first hearing, adamant that it wouldn't be a commercial success. Gordy initially refused to release the single, convinced it would flop. In retaliation to this, Gaye refused to record any more material for Motown until Gordy finally (and reluctantly) relented and in January 1971, the single hit record stores. Well, Gaye's gut instinct proved to be spot on - the single flew up to No.2 on the US Pop Billboard Chart. Gaye then proceeded to record the remainder of the album of the same name, which was completed within ten days in March'71 and released a few months later in May. The album was quickly recognised and acknowledged as a universal masterpiece, swiftly dispelling any reservation Berry Gordy may have had.

Unlike during the 1960s where he was forced to record what he was instructed, Gaye was able to exert full artistic and creative freedom, writing and producing material about issues of the world he cared deeply about. His work on here, which is very evident, came straight from the heart. Gaye meditated and reflected on the American dream of the past, conveying often poetic-like lyrics that related to the escalating urban decay, spiraling environmental problems, police brutality, poverty and unemployment, all topics that had touched Gaye's soul. He became a voice for both black and white people who didn't have a voice.

The majestic title track is a pure masterpiece and one of the (if not THE) greatest soul recordings ever made. A glorious backing arrangement, including a beautifully understated saxophone interlude on the track's magical opening, intertwine seamlessly with Gaye's emotive and deeply soulful performance. The lyrics are thought-provoking throughout; if you take a listen, the song is sadly just as relevant today as it was back in 1971.

The remainder of this project is sublime. The beautifully soulful, atmospheric moods are entwined with alternately warm, optimistic, angry and at times depressed vocals from this musical visionary. 'What's Happening Brother' continues in a similar vein to the title-track, the tone and mood sombre and thoughtful. Sporadic and divine sax interludes are encapsulated with thick, pulsating bass-lines and deep yet relaxed grooves that all become contagious. The song depicts the total despair of poverty and unemployment, all of which are complemented by Marvin's magnificently mesmerising vocals.

'Flyin High (In The Friendly Sky)', dealing with environmental topics, is set to a smooth, slow beat, filled with bongo's against a backdrop of gently pounding percussion. The devastatingly poignant 'Save The Children' is profound, to say the least, reflecting on our rapidly declining climate and of lost, desperate and abandoned children in the world.

The spiritual 'God Is Love' is an effective forerunner to one of Gaye's definitive classics, the compelling 'Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)' capturing an inspired performance from Gaye while the 8-minute epic of 'Right On', with a winding arrangement, highlighted by repetitive percussion, a sensual piano accompaniment, tinkling flutes and persistent congas, is another credible masterpiece that once more explores relevant political issue's.

'Whole Holy' is even more dreamy and mellow, flowing with a striking blend of instruments. Gaye's relaxed yet strongly emotive vocals enhance the beautifully sparse production. This steadily leads up to the final track and another of Gaye's essential classics, 'Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)' which is utterly captivating. Gaye's unique, distinct voice surfs along the sweeping musical landscapes and just listen to the delightful sounds of Motown's heroes The Funk Brother's (Motown's in-house musicians) masterful, well-crafted, dynamic playing in what has to be one of their most startling and memorable sessions.

What's Going On' was Marvin Gaye's haunting expressions of hope, anger and concern. This has stood the time impeccably well, remaining one of the very best, most stylish, accomplished and thought-provoking Soul albums of all time - if not THE best! Essential to any record collection.

Ian Phillips