At number 6 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest albums is “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye.
This is the only other album in the top 10 (along with “London Calling” by The Clash) which I did not own prior to seeing this list. So, I bought it about 18 months ago, and since then I have listened to it about two dozen times. The only songs on the album I knew before buying the album were “Mercy Mercy Me” and “What’s Going On”, both songs I like a lot.
I must say I am not sure what to make of this album, I find it very dated. I can appreciate that in the early 1970s it was very groundbreaking, and is possibly one of the first environmentally aware albums. Certainly Marvin Gaye has a message to get across. But I cannot imagine an album sounding like this being made now, it sounds as if it comes from the early 1970s and does not sound timeless. To be controversial, is this album the token album by a black artist in the top ten? Is it in the top ten just so there is a “black/soul album” in the top ten? Or does it deserve to be in the top ten on its own merits? I don’t know, I am just raising these questions as a talking point.
I am a big fan of Motown music in general, and have quite a number of Motown compilation albums. And, to my years, much of Motown’s music sounds timeless, but of all the stuff Marvin Gaye has done with which I am familiar, this album has the most songs which I cannot imagine being recorded at any other time but the early 1970s. What do you think?
Here is a live performance from 1980 of “Mercy Mercy Me” and “What’s Going On”. Enjoy!
Is this album Marvin Gaye’s greatest work? Does it deserve to be in the top ten of the 500 greatest albums of all time?