So many great albums were released in 1971. This is the standout. Motown's biggest star stopped doing love songs and wrote about the turmoil he saw around him. America divided on race, on the war in Vietnam. Student protests met with lethal force. Trigger happy policing.
Many of those issues still divide America. New forces fuel disagreement and hatred. What's Going On is fifty years old, but it sounds as if it could have been written last week. It is a deeply soulful prayer for a nation in trouble, full of humanity and compassion. Musically, it's a masterpiece. Motown boss Berry Gordy was nervous when his biggest star said he wanted to make a "protest" album. Later, Gordy said it was Motown's finest moment.
Richard is a writer, podcaster, radio and TV broadcaster, an editor, and a lover of music. He tells the stories of how great songs are made, and of the people who make them.