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Musical & Social Landmark,
This review is from: What's Going On (Audio CD)
By the time 1970 rolled around, Marvin Gaye had grown tired of his singing career. Although he was a major star, having huge hits, he felt disenfranchised from the business. The death of his close friend and singer partner Tammi Terrill had thrown him into serious state of depression and anger. He became serious about football and tried out with the Detroit Lions and he also had a hand at boxing. He, of course, never made the cut with these activities. His brother Frankie had recently come back from Vietnam and the stories that he related Marvin, helped spur him out of his funk and into the recording studio. He turned those feelings of detachment, melancholy and anger into one of the landmark albums in musical history. Gone were the days of Mr. Gaye singing about love and happiness, What's Going On explored the situation and status of the black man in society as well as the problems facing the world as a whole. The title track opens the album and he ponders the question of what is going on in the world today. It was not just about the brothers dying in and mothers crying about the Vietnam War, but about the wars of everyday life in Urban America. The next five songs flow in and out of one another forming a musical suite. In "What's Happening Brother" he questions why the inner city is decaying while "Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky)" is about Mr. Gaye's drug use. "Save The Children" asks for us to get together and make the world a better places for our kids and he provides a possible solution by looking to higher powers in "God Is Love". "Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)" is his take on the polluting of the world. "Right On" is a what one might call psychedelic funk and "Wholy Holy" is a sermon from the son of a preacher. The album closes back where it started with "Inner City Blues (Make Me Holler)" where Mr. Gaye rails against the problems of the ghettos. What's Going On was deemed so non-commercial by Motown, that they refused to release it and it sat in the can for almost a year. Mr. Gaye threatened to leave the label and they relented and finally released it in 1971. The album became a huge hit and Marvin Gaye was hailed for his ground-breaking work. The album is more than just music, it is a honest and open look at the ills of society. The album opened up many people's eyes and made them think about alot things they wouldn't have normally paid attention to. Unfortunately, most people didn't pay attention as most of the problems the album addresses are sadly still relevant today.