With his 1971 album, “What’s Going On,” Motown staple Marvin Gaye turned the R&B world — and the pop music world for that matter — upside down, smashing conventional ideas about pop songs, album topics and even song themes. It’s an album — and one you really should listen to from start to finish — about a Vietnam vet returning from war to find an America weighted down by racism, drugs, hatred and injustice. Not surprising, Gaye had to fight hard to have his vision come to life. It was deemed to be a concept album without any radio hits. It was too dark — especially coming from the voice of such hits as “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and so many more. But in the end, Gaye got his way — and our world is better for it. He even had the last laugh as the title track went to No. 2 on the Billboard Soul charts, and “Mercy Mercy Me” and “Inner-City Blues” both charted in the top 10. Oh, and in 2020, Rolling Stone listed it No. 1 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. “Right On.”
You can listen to What’s Going On on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, and Amazon, although it’s probably best on vinyl.