Saturday, 23 July 2016

Marvin Gaye's seminal masterpiece - What's Going On

Last week I heard that What’s Going On, one of the most enduring albums of all time, would be getting a documentary made about it,  The album What’s Going On remains one of my all time favourites, have a copy on vinyl and cd, a tightly woven masterpiece of message and music, mixing and matching many styles; soul, funk, doo-wop, jazz, spiritual, and classical; often within the same song. Somehow, Marvin Gaye transformed what could have been a heavy-handed rant against the state of the world into a cry for compassion, with songs of faith and hope, captured in beautiful, complex rhythms and music.
Released on May 21, 1971, the album is an introspective, politically charged nine-piece song cycle in it Gaye addresses the ravages of the Vietnam War, drug addiction, poverty, civil unrest, police brutality, injustice and even environmental issues.
Gaye was singing to his generation in an effort to wake people up to the struggles no one was willing to discuss at that time. But these songs are universal; they've transcended their time and place. Listen carefully and you'll notice how much they still resonate. In days like these full of agitation and confusion it still has the capacity to soothe and question at the same time.
 Marvin Gaye's title track was message music with a difference. It was an overture and an anthem. From its warm greetings between black men to the steady slap and patter of the congas; and with Gaye's vocals, which glided from sorrow into soaring at the bridge ;"What's Going On" was and still is a poetic plea for justice and contemplation within black communities. (The whole world could stand to tune in, as well.) Forty-four years ago, Gaye found a way to offer up a prayer in the form of a powerful question with an equally ringing affirmation.
The record as a whole remain astonishing, have had it on playing over and over, this afternoon whilst I've been writing this post. What's Going On was I guess the first soul album to finally catch up with the musical and counter-cultural movement that developed in the late sixties. Against the wishes of Motown and it's leader, Berry Gordy, Marvin Gaye moved forward with an album that was finally able to encompass the conciousness of his generation.
The album remains in my ears incredible. There's no other way to describe it. Marvin Gaye set his sights high and completely succeeded. It's gotta be one of the most definite albums to have emerged from the soul genre.It still remains an album about the people, for the people. From track to track it flows so well, full of beauty and atmosphere and valid social critique. It really is essential listening. Music for now. Still highly relevant and relatable. Marvin Gaye's message from the point of a dismayed man who believes love – not more hatred and violence – is the answer still hits the spot for me everytime. Have a listen, delve in deep, enjoy, heddwch/peace.

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