Greatest album of all time award
December 11, 2020
The Rolling Stone recently released an update to their “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list in September, causing a great deal of controversy over the highest rated positions. Among them was the best album of all time spot, which deservedly went to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin On.”
Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece is nothing short of Rolling Stone’s description for it, which states “(It was) … one of the most important and influential LPs ever made.”
The whole project was a jazzy, smooth, yet powerful take on the world’s problems. Gaye tackles police brutality, violence, war, climate change, wealth inequality, the drug epidemic, and poverty plaguing the streets of his hometown of Detroit and across the United States.
On the main track, “What’s Going On,” Gaye speaks from his heart to his close family, pondering why the world is the way it is. He uses his family as a metaphor for all people, and asks them why society is so cruel, using lines like, “… mother, why are there so many of you crying?” and, “… brother, why are there so many of you dying?”
Marvin Gaye’s vocal prowess is another factor which boosts the superiority of his album, which may be seen in his track, “What’s Happening Brother.” This piece is sung beautifully from the perspective of a soldier who just got back from Vietnam, asking why things are so bad and how they have changed. This lyrical and vocal masterpiece exposes poverty and false implications of quality of living.
“Mercy Mercy Me” is another powerful and beautiful track about pollution and climate. Gaye sings, “What about this overcrowded land, how much more from man can she stand?” and, “Radiation under ground and in the sky, animals and birds who live nearby are dying.”
On “Flying High in the Friendly Sky,” he uses a light, smooth, and seemingly floating sound to convey the feeling of being high, yet with clever lyrics he highlights the underlying issues of drug abuse.
It seems as if Gaye perfectly encapsulates the depressing thoughts and ideas of black America and transforms it into a beautiful, elegant, and hopeful sound. His final track, “Inner City Blues,” acts as an ode to the frustration from all the world’s problems and summarizes the feeling of not knowing where to go next in a cruel and unjust world.
Throughout all the anguish, confusion, and frustration with the world that Gaye has conveyed, he leaves us with a hopeful and optimistic spin on his message. Gaye states “… only love can conquer hate. You know we’ve got to find a way, to bring some lovin’ here today…”
The vocal expertise, genius lyrical ability, majestic production, and powerful message pull together a masterpiece of an album, and one that deserves to be called the greatest of all time.