When What’s Going On was released in 1971, things were sort of like they are now — America was mired in war, the economy was in turmoil, and popular music reflected two very conflicting pictures of our culture.
I think because of its gut-wrenching honesty and depth, Marvin Gaye made an album which, talked about time and again, survives all measure of cliche and hyperbole by music writers grasping at its meanings. It’s been revered and covered by a variety of artists in a number of different ways in the last 40 years. While there seems to me no question the timelessness of the album from which this song comes, I always feels like this song (which appears second on the album) is treated like an afterthought to the title track on the album. Though short and to the point, the song “What’s Happening Brother” by itself could just as easily have been written as an observatory tone poem about the times we’re living through right now.
And so, I throw it back to you for this Thursday Throwback. A big thanks to Fleet Foxes for reminding me (via Twitter) about the brilliant string arrangements on this album from the late David Van DePitte. “Are things really getting better like the newspapers say?”
Marvin Gaye – What’s Happening Brother