My attempt to blog all of the entries from the book 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die
Brief Background: What’s Going On was mostly recorded over a few days in March of 1971. The exception was the title track being recorded in 1970. Gaye struggled with Motown over the direction of this new song, eventually winning out and gaining the freedom to move into a socially conscious realm. The tracks on the album all run into one another creating one connected song concerning the Vietnam war and the plight of soldiers coming home, drug use, endangered children, the environment and the hardships of inner city life.
What I think:
This is one of the first albums I really wish I could bring somebody else in to write about. It’s such an over arching detail of the problems facing inner city America in the post sixties world, and it is so foreign to me that I feel like a poser in writing about it. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pain in the lyrics though and that is what I will focus on.
This album is heavy! In song after song the listener is pounded with sadness and injustice until the second side of the album when there is a plea for the people to change these ills. The brilliance of the album is the ability of the songs to keep you feeling and taking in all of these problems without shutting down your emotions.
My favorites here are the obvious singles in “What’s Going On” and “Mercy Mercy Me”, but this album surely deserves more that the two listens I’ve given it for this project and that is sure to change with “Save the Children” and “Inner City Blues” already making an impression on me. “Save the Children” is probably the most interesting track on the album to me as in the wrongs hands it would be just an awful piece of cheese, but in Gaye’s hands it is impassioned and most importantly believable.
Do I agree or disagree with the writers as to this being an album you must listen to? No Doubt about it, I can’t believe this is my first time hearing it.
Rating (Out of 5): 5
What’s Going On Amazon Review (Out of 5): 4.5
Is this my first time hearing this album? Yes (172/217)
Percentage of Albums that are new to me: 79%