Mr. Story Post: What’s happening brothers?

So, I am building a list of potential albums for the ‘This isn’t happening’ brotherhood when it’s my turn. At least half I reckon you probably already have so I thought I’d share this with you brothers.

Artist: Marvin Gaye / Album: What’s Going On

One of my favourite albums of all time, I adore it. The reason I am writing about it now is due to our previous discussion about it being difficult to get into ‘old’ albums unless you lived through them some how (even if by proxy, through parents, relatives or friends). I did not live through this album. I was introduced to it … and I realise I loose any cool points that I might have had before admitting this … but I was introduced to this album through Cuba Gooding Jr singing the title track at Tom (I am definitiely not ((Marvin)) Gaye) Cruise’s wedding in the film ‘Jerry McGuire’. I think I was in 2nd year at Uni as I bought it at Polar Bear records in Headingley Leeds and loved it instantly.

Anyway, David mentioned it being important to understand how albums came into the world and why perhaps they were ground breaking or important or brilliant or all three.

Please, give a brother 25 mins and listen to this podcast, you will not be dissapointed. I love this story and I adore this album ….

http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/gaye

Marvinwhats

10 comments

  1. Guy Hornsby

    Can’t really write much at the moment but I cannot really rate this album highly enough. It’s epochal, both musically and in terms of the protests at the time that it became a touchstone for. Mesmerising, perfect soul.

  2. misterstory

    Have a download and listen to that podcast then. It made me cry. I know I need to get a life but it really did.

  3. David Allison

    Like both of you, I can’t say enough about this record. It’s such a game changer. Has any artist ever made such a bold leap forward in one album? It laid the template for Stevie Wonder’s incredible 70s output. If this doesn’t sound too pretentious (*cough*), it transcends its genre. I still listen to it really regularly – the last time being last week, oddly enough. Look forward to catching that audio doc. Good call, Joseph.

  4. Guy Hornsby

    It’s really hard to overestimate the importance of this album. It was different in so many ways. Marvin’s brother was in Vietnam, which shapes the whole album’s narrative. And for Mowtown it was almost too much for Berry Gordy, whose releases on the label up to them were all radio-friendly soul. He was very unconfortable with the contents of the single – as originally there was no album, just What’s Going On – and even then Gaye nearly didn’t sing it. He’d co-wrote it, the first thing he’d worked on since Tammi Terrell had died earlier that year, so it’s not surprising that the album went in such a direction in many ways due to his state of mind about life, fuelled by the backdrop of Vietnam, social unrest and the gloom of the Nixon era. It was only after the success of the single that Gordy saw sense, but even then he wanted to change the way that the songs all flowed into one another and didn’t favour being singles. It was in the Top100 albums for a staggering year. Which for a soul record was unheard of. But the fact it was a social and political record, that not just talked about how Gaye felt about America at the time, but that was a direct response to his family’s experience of the war, and the songs were written as a chronological tale, it was effectively the first concept album from a s0ul artist, and the inspriation for many after Gaye. It was his 11th album, and so he’d already had a long career before then. But this brought his the rare mix of universal sales and love from the public and the critics, and changed him profile hugely. And of course, led to Let’s Get It On, his biggest ever selling album. It’s not difficult to suggest that one wouldnt’ have happened without the other. For me, I first listened to it in the 80s, as my folks have always had a lot of Motown stuff – Four Tops, Temptations, Diana Ross, Otis Redding, and Gaye, but it actually didn’t resonate until I was a teenager, and I’ve loved it since then. Along with Let’s Get It On, it’s the artist at the height of his powers, and absolutely vital for anyone with a love for soul.

  5. Guy Hornsby

    Finally got round to listening to the podcast. I knew a lot of the backstory, but it was fascinating hearing it from the likes of Smokey and Lamont Dozier. It gave some real colour to the album, and the parts about the various tracks and the two Detroit Lions players being the guys in the background of What’s Goin’ On was cool. Good suggestion. And it made me listen to it again afterwards. My god, it never diminishes. A stone cold classic.

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