326. Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On”

Much of my TV viewing this year has involving racing through the first 3 series of gritty Baltimore cops and homies drama The Wire.

It weaves a pretty devastating tale of dysfunctional inner-city life. One can only think that Marvin Gaye is shaking his head in disappointment from beyond the grave, and saying ‘why didn’t they listen?’.

Gaye was blessed with one of those voices that could make the phonebook sound soulful, heartwrenching and sexy all at the same time.

He shocked the music world by getting political on this album, bemoaning the plight of the black man and pleading for a stronger, more responsible and responsive attitude from all.

The title track is beautiful, and there are a few other moments of momentous coolness (What’s happening brother, Mercy mercy me, Inner city blues). To have seen this is full swing back in the day would have been a treat:

Unfortunately, too much of this album is god-bothering pap. There are so many ‘praise thees’ on here, you’d think Al Green was at the mic/pulpit.

It was Stevie Wonder who subsequently delivered on the ‘urban plight’ angle of this album on his Innervisions masterpiece. But this certainly set the foundation.

File under: Got it going on, some of the time.

2 responses to “326. Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On”

  1. The Wire is just about the best series I’ve ever seen. Liked it so much I brought all the seasons.

  2. What’s Going On is a pivotal album in both the development of Gaye as an artist and the social shift in focus at Motown.

    Unlike you my friend, this is an album that I love from start to finish, even the more gospel tinged tracks contain fresh arrangements and melody.


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