The Washington Post

Marvin Gaye’s album, 40 years on, asks what’s going on?

Marvin Gaye "What's Going On" (none)

Marvin Gaye’s been dead for nearly 30 years, and his landmark album “What’s Going On” is 40 years old, yet the album’s title track’s words and message still resonate.

It helps that Universal Motown, Marvin Gaye’s record label, has launched a Facebook campaign to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the album, asking people to post about what’s going on in their communities all over the world. Fans have posted a video from the Spanish protests, a photo from the North Dakota floods, and an image that beckoned people to “spread love in music.” One woman complained about segregation in Santa Cruz, Calif.

The contributions mostly stayed true to the “What’s Going On” album, which is told from the perspective of a Vietnam War vet returning to the country he had been fighting for, and finding only injustice, suffering, and hatred back home.

One of the historic recordings in pop music history, NPR called title track of “What’s Going On”“an overture and an anthem. From its warm greetings between black men to the steady slap and patter of the congas — and with Gaye's vocals, which glided from sorrow into soaring at the bridge — “What’s Going On” was and still is a poetic plea for justice and contemplation within black communities.

Watch Marvin Gaye sing “What’s Going On” live:

But some things have changed over the past 40 years. Big Sean and Kanye West’s recently released a song “Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay,” which isn’t nearly as elegant as “What’s going on.” The song’s main lyrics: “Just to set the mood, girl I bought some Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay. Hold up, Hold up, Hold up, Hold up, Hold up, Yeaaah.”


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