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#LPLove: ‘What’s Going On’ (50th Anniversary) – Marvin Gaye

Available for the first time on vinyl, the album is hailed as quite possibly the best album of all time

Amit Vaidya Jan 19, 2022
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Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Going On celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and is now available for the first time on vinyl, featuring the direct-to-analog mastering from the original primary album tape reels by award-winning engineer Kevin Gray. This is one of the first times this has been made possible since the original album released in 1971, making for what might be the most authentic listening experience possible today.

Hailed universally as quite possibly the best album of all time (including on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Album Of All Time list), with every passing year the legacy of Gaye’s masterpiece continues to resonate with generations. With the recent surge in vinyl, it’s a true delight to have What’s Going On: 50th Anniversary now available as 2LP Edition plus a bonus LP.  The latter features four rare tracks that make their vinyl debut. A previously unreleased “stripped” version of the title song “What’s Going On” is included, plus all six original mono single mixes with their original B-sides and all of the 7-inch versions are now available on vinyl for the first time since their original release. 

It’s amazing to hear the recordings on vinyl, and they feel as fresh as ever. The timelessness of the recordings and the warmth of Gaye’s vocals on vinyl make for a sonic experience no amount of Silk Sonic could ever even come close to replicating. Of course, while most music today is focused on the many facets of love, What’s Going On was a concept album with a narrative told from the perspective of a Vietnam veteran returning back to the United States and seeing his country in peril—highlighting everything from poverty to injustice to even environmental issues. 

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Given the accolades that the album received immediately upon its release and then continued to receive over the last five decades, there would be a presumption that the album or even the title song would have landed a Grammy nomination and a win for Gaye. Unfortunately, the album only produced one nomination for Gaye, and that too for Best Male R&B Performance with Vocals for “Inner City Blues.” Yes, before The Weeknd, there have been many historic snubs and perhaps no snub is larger or more disgraceful than the one for What’s Going On

Having said that, generations of music fans have had the last laugh and with this new supersized vinyl experience, there is another chance to experience this brilliant record.  With an original gatefold with complete lyrics, printed sleeves with track details, a rare image from the cover sessions, and a brief essay honoring arranger David Van De Pitte, there is enough reason to celebrate this 50th Anniversary edition. 

Last year the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer proclaimed January 20th to be ‘What’s Going On’ Day in her state, which was yet another honour bestowed to the timeless record. In light of that, a wonderful new feature of the album is an essay by 2021 MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient, acclaimed author and poet Hanif Abdurraqib. His words speak truth to power not just about the legacy of Gaye’s album but a movement that started and continues to define each generation by the prolific words the singer shared with us a half-century ago. 

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There’s no better addition that should be made to a vinyl collection at the start of 2022 than this epic release by Marvin Gaye. 

Crazy Fact! – Marvin Gaye received 12 Grammy nominations over the course of his career. He won a total of two Grammys and both were for his 1982 release “Sexual Healing” in the R&B category. He never won any for his work with his long-standing record label Motown. Contemporary artists should take note; they’re in good company about getting snubbed!

Buy ‘What’s Going On’ (50th Anniversary) here.

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