The classic album “What’s Going On,” essential to any Soul music collection is not only the masterpiece of Marvin Gaye’s genius, but one of the most innovative and artistic albums ever made. Rather than feeling like an album, “What’s Going On” feels like one great song divided into smaller pieces, as one would divide a play into acts. When listened to, you feel a sense of completeness that is rarely felt with albums. Marvin Gaye’s magnificent voice brings the music along fluidly without a moment where one questions his mastery over his art. In this album, Gaye’s insightful lyrics and the instruments that alternate beautifully between upbeat cheerful tempos, and slow, introspective and peaceful sounds that reflect his words against injustice and hatred.
“What’s Going On” begins with the title track, arguably the best track of the album and of Gaye’s career. The song begins with sounds of people greeting each other, which then has a great saxophone piece played on top of that and finally Gaye’s voice.
The voices of the people heard at the beginning of the track are repeated throughout, contributing to a greater feeling of unity. The second track, “What’s Happening Brother” begins with the end of the previous track but then continues with Gaye taking it to a different place, even though the lyrics of the suffering and the suffering and injustice in the world sound as if they are merely continuing from the previous ones.
The fourth song, “Save The Children” beautifully mixes Gaye’s singing and reciting of lyrics which continued the lyrics, spreading the message of love, in particular this time for the children, which then continues on to “God is Love” an then “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology),” another song that is a classic in and of itself. It has a beautiful saxophone section and a haunting chorus section at the end. The seventh track, “Right On” has a nice upbeat Latin Soul feel and delightful piano and percussion. In here Gaye preaches how “love can conquer hate anytime” and “we gotta come together.” The next track “Wholy Holy” is a nice soft and slow continuation of the album and leads to the final track “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).” In the final song, Gaye sings of the difficulties of an inner-city life beautifully with the aid of a great backing of piano and bongo drums.
The final minute of the song and the album is a reprise of the first song, masterfully bringing the album into a full circle, with everything interconnected and ultimately unified. In “What’s Going On,” Gaye pioneered what the concept of an album is. Instead of working on some good songs and putting them on an album, Gaye made the album the true work of art. He created the album as an album as it’s own piece of art that is a complete and unified work that will be remembered as one of the greatest albums ever made.