What's Going On is the eleventh studio album by soul musician Marvin Gaye, released May 21, 1971, on the Motown-subsidiary label Tamla Records. Recording sessions for the album took place in June 1970 and March–May 1971 at Hitsville U.S.A., Golden World and United Sound Studios in Detroit and at The Sound Factory in West Hollywood, California.
The first Marvin Gaye album credited as being produced by the artist himself, What's Going On is a unified concept album consisting of nine songs, most of which lead into the next. It has also been categorized as a song cycle; the album ends on a reprise of the album's opening theme. The album is told from the point of view of a Vietnam War veteran returning to the country he had been fighting for, and seeing nothing but injustice, suffering and hatred.
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. The album features introspective lyrics and socially conscious themes of drug abuse, poverty, and the Vietnam War. What's Going On was both an immediate commercial and critical success and has endured as a classic of early-1970s soul. A deluxe edition set of the album was released on February 27, 2001, and featured a rare live concert shot at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center from May 1972.
In worldwide critics', artists' and public surveys, it has been voted one of the landmark recordings in pop music history and is considered to be one of the greatest albums ever made. In 2003, the album was ranked number six on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time", placing that same position nine years later.