Forty years on, the album remains a timeless classic. Speaking boldly and passionately about social issues on the street unlike any other album before, What’s Going On provided a soundtrack to life in America—and still does. It was a smash from the start and it’s still one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top ten Greatest Albums of All Time. Two songs from this album are in the Grammy® Hall of Fame, which honors the most important recordings in history.
In celebration of the 40th anniversary, Motown/UMe releases What’s Going On – Super Deluxe Edition, on May 31, 2011. This new Super Deluxe Edition includes two CDs and one vinyl LP, 14 unreleased tracks, copious rarities, all complemented by an oversized booklet with two essays and rare photos from the original cover shoot. Inside as well is a reproduction of the album graphics, which showcased, for the first time at Motown, the song’s lyrics—and identified the musicians.
Leading off this lovingly produced, double-gatefold 12x12 package is a newly remastered version of the original album, which delivers a deeper, warmer sound than in previous reissues. Added to the album on Disc 1 are several outtakes from sessions that led up to the recording of the LP—the original mix of the title song Marvin presented to Motown’s legendary Quality Control meeting, where it was summarily rejected.
Disc 2 of What’s Going On – Super Deluxe Edition is a document of the album’s aftermath, when Marvin Gaye, reluctant to tour and shy about becoming the “spokesman of his generation,” holed up in Motown’s Studio B in Detroit with like-minded musicians—among them the young guitarists Ray Parker Jr. and Wah Wah Watson, and the 20-year-old bassist Michael Henderson, fresh from a Miles Davis tour—and simply jammed over several days.
Capping this special release is the first ever 12-inch vinyl LP of the “Detroit Mix” of What’s Going On, the original, darker mix of the entire album, left behind when Gaye decided to finish the overdubs in Los Angeles.
Inside is an LP-sized booklet with rare photos from the sessions, the original lyrics, detailed recording annotations and two essays: one by Gaye biographer David Ritz describing the “Why” Marvin Gaye created his first-ever self-produced album, and another detailing the “How” by Ben Edmonds, author of What’s Going On: Marvin Gaye and The Last Days Of The Motown Sound.
The anniversary will also be marked on stage this summer when Rickey Minor, Stevie Wonder and Friends (including special guest Janelle Monáe) perform a July 24 Hollywood Bowl concert concluding with a tribute to What’s Going On. In May of next year, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the National Symphony Orchestra with John Legend and The Roots will collaborate for a special What’s Going On concert to note the 40th anniversary of Gaye’s legendary performance at that venue.