Marvin Gaye Releases "What's Going On" As a Single
Date: January 17, 1971
Marvin Gaye needs no introduction: his name has become synonymous with the rich legacy of Motown and the soulful R&B that came to define Black music for decades to come. It should come as no surprise that the man released his (arguably) best single eleven albums into his career. "What's Going On" is all at once a gripping protest song, a syrupy love song and a giddy party starter. When the track dropped in 1971, Gaye was struggling through the sudden loss of his frequent collaborator and close friend Tammi Terrell, a brother that had been shipped off to war, and a country that was still mired in the dregs of violence and racism. Although inspired by an act of police brutality, "What's Going On" led to some of Gaye's most bright-eyed work on the landmark album of the same name, and gave the movement one of its defining anthems.