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Top 10 Most Inspirational Albums Number 2


Sam Burnett

Top Ten most inspirational albums number 2

What’s Going On

Marvin Gaye’s 1971 and his 11th studio album is in my opinion the greatest Motown album ever to be released.

Every track on the album is a classic, whilst Gaye’s singles success will be largely remembered for hits such as, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Let’s Get It On”. Neither track appears on the album.

Without the burden of having a single on the album that is so much better than anything else on the album, Marvin is able to present to us a complete piece of art. Every track rolls from one song to another.

The Funk Brothers, who will undoubtedly appear in future posts on Bespoke Music Tuition’s blog, are the geniuses behind the record.

These relatively unknown groups of session musicians are the most successful group of popular musicians ever. Having between them played on more number ones than; The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Madonna and Michael Jackson combined. They were the soul of Motown and certain musicians such as the late great Bass Guitarist James Jamerson, played with every Motown artist from; Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and of course Marvin Gaye.

The genius of these musicians in creating music that does not follow the status quo of most pop music. Brilliant melodic bass lines, pioneering drum grooves, subtle guitar licks as well as featuring world instruments such as, the Bongo and Xylophone, help to create a soundscape that is musically complicated enough for professional musicians to recognise, but unlike the groups Jazz background, extremely easy on the ear to non musicians. Making Marvin Gaye and Motown a housewives favorite, as well as a favorite amongst professional musicians.

There is no music snobbery when it comes to Motown and the Funk Brothers and Marvin Gaye are responsible for a large part of that.

The album starts with the self-titled track “What’s Going On”.

If you isolated the first 5 seconds of the track, it features Marvin and his band having a good time in conversation. Isolated, this part of the record could be the intro to any one of hip-hop’s top artists. Tupac, Dr Dre and Biggie Smalls all have mimicked this intro intentially or not throughout their careers.

The track then starts with the bass following Bootsy Collins rule of hitting the one beat, Jamerson’s bass goes off tangent through the track, always though returning to that infamous beat one of each bar. This allows the bass to be far more creative than in most modern pop music, and is thus credited by players such as, Paul Mccartney, Jaco Pastorious, and Flea in the fantastic catalogue book, “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown”, to be the greatest Bass work on a pop record of all time. The drums play the famous Motown shuffle and include subtle fills around the bass guitar, leaving room for the bongo’s to take the track by storm later on.

We then move onto the original lover man, Marvin Gaye. His voice dances over the track subtly seducing the listener and taking us to a place of security and openness. Simply put, this album is or should be on every bachelors mix tape around the world.

Moving onto Marvin’s more sensitive side in “Save the Children”. The Bass now takes a far more Jazz approach, taking inspiration from players such as, Paul Chambers. Playing a walking line over the four to the floor high hat rhythm being played on the drum. This record could be explained as Marvin Gaye’s “Earth Song”. It showcases his unrivalled vocals as well as promoting a subject close to his heart.

Many music critics say that it is not what notes you are singing, but the delivery of the words that will carry you to the top. Never has that been more true than with this record. Marvin’s passion takes this album to another level to that of any other Motown album.

“Save The Children” floats effortlessly into “God Is Love”. Marvin now taking the role of a preacher man. Delivering the not quite gospel but a defiantly spiritual song, whilst retaining the sexuality of the record. I cannot think of another example in music where god is betrayed as sexy, however Marvin manages to achieve this again through the delivery of his words. His message is Primal yet his voice is sophisticated.

I could go on and on about Motown’s influence on music of today, for further reading I would recommend check out “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown”. A book and film that every Motown fan will adore.

As for Marvin, the end of his life was an injustice for a man who has achieved his success and inspired millions of people around the world.

I think we can all agree, they do not cut records like they used to.

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