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What's Going On - 50th Anniversary


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Motown’s “Prince Of Soul,” Marvin Gaye, was already a hit artist for nearly a decade when, in 1971, he reached new heights with his album What's Going On. An immediate landmark recording, it was the first of Gaye's albums to break the top ten of Billboard’s Top LPs, and quickly became Motown's best-selling record. To this day, What's Going On is hailed as one of the greatest albums of all time, earning the number one spot on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2020 list of “The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.”

On January 15th, in celebration of this groundbreaking album while also marking the 50th anniversary of the title song’s release as a single, UMe will be issuing collections that honor the depth of Gaye's album.

First, Motown/UMe has consolidated several What’s Going On-related releases into one new digital collection, What’s Going On: Deluxe Edition/50th Anniversary This includes the original album, plus 12 bonus tracks featuring each of the LP’s original mono single versions and their B-sides, two of which are different takes – “God Is Love” and “Sad Tomorrows,” an earlier version of “Flying High (in the Friendly Sky)” – while the pre-album single version of “What’s Going On” has no “party” intro and a false fade. Also included is the title song’s earliest mix, initially made as a reference for Motown’s in-house quality control department before horns and strings were added; a dramatic instrumental mix; a “Coffeehouse Mix” by Grammy-winning engineer Russ Elevado that emphasizes the track’s previously buried acoustic guitar, originally available on a

Record Store Day exclusive 10” EP for the album’s 45th anniversary in 2016. Also included from that same 2016 release is a “What’s Going On” duet with Motown artist B.J. the Chicago Kid. Other tracks are an early working version of “Symphony,” written by Marvin with Smokey Robinson, in which Marvin sings over and over, “what’s going on?” while the song of the same name sat unreleased; and the instrumental “I Love the Ground You Walk On,” recorded during the same waiting period.

Fifty years later, the influence and meaning behind this legendary record continues to ring true. The single “What’s Going On” originated as a response to police brutality at a protest in Berkeley, CA and coincided with personal tragedy in Gaye's life as well as Gaye’s brother's time fighting in Vietnam. The compounding experiences sparked the poignant plea that became the full-length LP What's Going On. Calling out to a broken country, Gaye searched for reason and hope in a world that felt desperate and senseless; a sentiment that many share now more than ever.

Marvin Gaye continues to hold his place as one of the greatest singers, composers and producers of all time, and in this half a century What's Going On has proven itself to be one of the world's most unforgettable records.

Released: April 2022
Cat: 3558417
Label: UMC/Island



LP 1:


  1. What’s Going On 3:53
  2. What’s Happening Brother 2:44
  3. Flyin’ High (In The Friendly Sky) 3:50
  4. Save The Children 4:03
  5. God Is Love 1:42
  6. Mercy Mercy Me 3:13


  1. Right On 7:32
  2. Wholy Holy 3:08
  3. Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) 5:27

 LP 2:


  1. What’s Going On stripped version * 3:57
  2. What’s Going On 3:54 mix 1/no strings or horns
  3. What’s Going On rhythm & strings instrumental mix 3:50
  4. Symphony demo version 2:49

 SIDE 4 – Original Mono Single Mixes

  1. What’s Going On 3:54
  2. God Is Love 2:51
  3. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) 2:30
  4. Sad Tomorrows 2:22
  5. Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) 2:58
  6. Wholy Holy 3:09

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