Marvin Gaye’s album What’s Going On was released today (May 21st), 1971. The album instantly became a million-seller, despite the fact that Motown’s CEO, Berry Gordy, almost refused to release it.
1. What’s Going On is the first Marvin Gaye album credited as produced solely by the artist himself.
2. In 2003, the album was ranked #6 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
3. A 1999 critics poll conducted by British newspaper Guardian/Observer named “What’s Going On” as the Greatest Album of the 20th Century.
4. Upon its release in January 1971, “”What’s Going On”” became Motown’s fastest selling single at that point, going to the number-one spot on the R&B charts for five weeks and number-two for three weeks on the Pop listings, with “”Joy to the World”” by Three Dog Night retaining the top spot.
5. What’s Going On is one of the first soul music concept albums.
6. James Jamerson played the bass laying down on his back on “What’s Going On,” while Bob Babbitt put down the bass licks for “Inner City Blues.”
7. In 2003, it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.
8. Many artists from different musical genres covered songs from the album, most notably live recordings by Aretha Franklin (“”Wholy Holy”” on Amazing Grace) and Donny Hathaway.
9. What’s Going On remained on the Billboard Pop Album Charts for over a year.
10. What’s Going On was the first album on which Motown Records’ main studio band, the group of session musicians known as the Funk Brothers, received an official credit.
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