originally released in 1971, 'what's going on' remains a landmark album, one that redefined music with powerful, anthemic songs that remain pertinent to this day. before 'what's going on', r&b albums were collections of singles, with secondary 'filler' material rounding out the lps. marvin gaye changed all this by releasing a concept album that went beyond the usual boy-meets-girl scenario, weaving together an aural collage of societal ills. "crime is increasing / trigger-happy policing," from 'inner city blues (make me wanna holler),' is as potent a line today as it was over 20 years ago, and with america still divided over the vietnam war, the title track became a rallying cry for peace. dark, mercurial, and jazzy, 'what's going on' was as radical musically as it was conceptually. layered with lush orchestrations, heavenly background vocals, and loose, fiercely grooving arrangements, what's going on so surpassed anything previously known as soul music that it virtually reinvented the genre. the critical and commercial success of gaye's opus also enabled other artists to break free from the creative shackles imposed by motown and other companies, and to experience more autonomy in musical and thematic expression, thereby changing the industry. in short, the musical and historical significance of 'what's going on' cannot be overestimated; it was gaye's masterpiece, and still stands as one of the greatest soul albums of all time.