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Masterpiece Reviews: Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

A look back at a timeless concept album from one of Motown's brightest stars

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    Welcome to the latest edition of Masterpiece Reviews. Once again, we’ve thrown on our favorite velvet robe, turned up the fire, and are here to regale you with stories of the greatest and most classic albums of all time. It’s a fresh, new perspective on why these albums are filed under “M” for masterpiece.

    By 1970, Marvin Gaye’s life had reached a crossroad. His longtime singing partner at Motown Records Tammi Terrell had died due to a brain tumor, he was experimenting with cocaine, and he had secluded himself from music as he was reaching new heights of fame. It was at this point that Gaye completely changed his look, and based on the letters he received from his brother who served in Vietnam, he decided to release a protest record.

    At the legendary Hitsville U.S.A. studios, Gaye and Motown musicians The Funk Brothers recorded nine songs that would become What’s Going On. The album is told from the viewpoint of a Vietnam War veteran who returns to America and witnesses rampant drug use, a destructive environment, and sprawling poverty. Upon its 1971 release, What’s Going On sold over two million copies, and has since been considered one of the best albums of all time.

    Watch the latest episode of Masterpiece Reviews up above and subscribe to Consequence of Sound’s YouTube channel.

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