(The Rewind Button is a group blogging project. Every Thursday, we review an album from Rolling Stone’s Greatest Albums list.)
What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye is the sixth album on Rolling Stone’s list and I really enjoyed listening to it. It’s deeply soulful, no pun intended. I listened to it on a lazy night, just enjoying the music and listening to the lyrics. Unlike the other five albums, the songs on this album are linked to each other.
Ok, you can argue that Highway 61‘s songs are linked but What’s Going On is linked not only by theme but by melody. The songs often run into each other, the note of the last song becoming the note of the next song. It’s a bit like a song cycle, which I think is mostly used in opera. The method suits the album because it’s a reflection of a man back from war and looking at what he left behind and fought for. It turns out it’s not all that great. The environment isn’t that great (Mercy, Mercy Me) Vietnam is happening (What’s Going On and What’s Happening Brother) and the social structure isn’t looking great (Right On).
The mood of the album, I think, conveys the daze of the protagonist. Yes, I’m exercising my literary degree on you. The protagonist is back from Vietnam. He’s walking what was once familiar ground but is realizing that it’s no longer familiar. Things have changed and he’s working on accepting change. When I first listened to the album I thought he was just a mellow guy then I thought, he’s not mellow, he’s trying to cope with life after the Vietnam war. It’s a mediation, that’s what this album is. The protagonist’s love of children and God could be a way to reconnect with his surroundings with the innocence of children and the comfort of his God.
I could be overthinking this but this album, the seventh studio album from Gaye and the first time he used personal stories to create, is definitely my favourite for now.
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