|Marvin Gaye's landmark album|
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 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 only hatred, suffering, and injustice. Gaye's introspective lyrics discuss themes of drug abuse, poverty, and the Vietnam War. He has also been credited with criticizing global warming before the public outcry against it had become prominent. It (the studio album) has become masterpiece of tremendous impact and influence across generations and it content is still relevant today with the social and political situations occurring in America and around the world. The recording project pushed Marvin Gaye to icon status internationally and made him a house whole name in the same breath as the late Otis Redding and Jimmy Hendricks.
According to Van DePitte: “Marvin wanted somebody other than the normal drummers who worked at Motown. Chet was coming from a little different place. He was a white guy, and he had done a great deal of studying in the classical vein. He was also one of the best jazz drummers I ever worked with. When this guy locked into a groove, you couldn’t shift him.”
Golden World Studios in Detroit, Studio B, was used to record the strings and horns section, led by concert master Gordon Staples, whilst the rhythm section was recorded at Motown’s old Studio A on West Grand Boulevard. Marvin Gaye’s creative instincts were certainly validated by the middle of 1971 when “What’s Going On” was racing up the charts, becoming a best-seller for Motown.