“What's Going On”
Stereophile|September 2020
“What's Going On”
MY BACK PAGES
JOHN ATKINSON

Mother, mother

There’s too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother

There’s far too many of you dying

I watched the TV with horror. George Floyd, an African-American man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was being killed in front of the camera. I retreated to the listening room. In what couldn’t have been a coincidence, the Roon app’s “Discover” function had recommended I play What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye’s groundbreaking album, released in 1971 by Motown subsidiary Tamla.

I first heard this album when, at the start of my professional career as a bass guitarist, I was driving to a gig in Wales, playing the cassette in my car. I have always found that listening to music alone in the car is an immersive experience. Despite the background noise and the lack of fidelity, you can focus your attention on the meaning of the music in ways that aren’t always possible among the distractions of domestic life.

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September 2020