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.
1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything makes the case for a year of great music, landmark albums, and seismic shifts in styles and methods.
Ask 50 people what year they think had the finest music. Answers will vary widely, but you'll be amazed how many says "1971". With good cause. Blue, Sticky Fingers, What's Going On, Aqualung, Cat Stevens, Elton John, ex-Beatle solo releases. The shift from singles to albums was accelerating. Radio playlists got bolder. Record companies took bigger risks. Performers were allowed, encouraged, to experiment.
Rock and pop music has always been dominated by songs in English, recorded by bands from Britain and the US. But there's always been music from other countries, in many languages.
In the 1980s, the industry found a marketing label for those global sounds - "world" music. We could hear and buy music from just about anywhere.
Before that, such music was rarely heard in the West. But every so often, a "foreign" record would break through. Latin dance numbers, African tunes, Indian infused 60s pop.
For many people, their first taste of world music came in 1964, when the dance sequence from the film Zorba the Greek became a global hit. It was written and recorded in one epic night by Mikis Theodorakis to meet a movie deadline. Zorba's Dance was a number one hit all over the world. Mikis Theodorakis was a composer, conductor, and political leader. He died in September.
Listen to the story of Zorba and other early world music hits.
Songs usually stay in one key, one scale or set of notes that are in harmony with each other. The keys of A B C D E F and G, majors and minors, and all the sharps and flats, all have their own distinct flavour and character.
Sometimes, changing to another key during a song adds drama, feeling, magic. It can be a device that adds momentum, or mystery. A good key change can lift an ordinary song into the stratosphere.
AUDIO Listen to some famous rock & pop key changes
Phil and Don Everly used to sing on their dad Ike's radio show when they were just kids. They were country through and through. When they started to make records, their rocking rhythm and incredible harmonies put them right in the heart of rock and roll's first wave.
They hit the scene just when big business first learned they could sell direct to teenagers. Much schlock and flim flam went out into the teen market in the mid 50s, but there was genuine treasure too.
The Everly Brothers succeeded, and their music has endured, because of their uncanny harmonies that embodied the idealised relationships of which they sang. And their songs were authentic expressions of what it was to be a teenager - in a time when nearly everybody got that wrong.
AUDIO: Listen to the story of the Everly Brothers
Charlie Watts was a young boy when he heard jazz drummer Chico Hamilton playing the brushes on a Gerry Mulligan Quartet record called Walking Shoes. Young Charlie knew, in that moment, that he wanted to be a jazz drummer too. Before long, he's drumming for the rock band he never left - The Rolling Stones.
It may seem counterintuitive, but Charlie's jazz roots made him exactly the right man for what would become the world's best live rock and roll band. His rock steady drumming anchored the Stones rhythm section, creating opportunities for Mick, Keith and soloists to shine.
And that would have been more than enough. But the best drummers do much more by doing less. They add fills and breaks - but no more than the song requires. Sometimes, Charlie would play a fraction behind the beat, creating a soulful, funky element that empowered Stones rock songs.
Charlie Watts was a great drummer, and a true gentleman.
AUDIO Listen to the story of Charlie Watts
We've been tracking the evolution of popular music, dropping in to the first year of each decade since the 40s. In 1961, the first wave of rock & roll was gone, seemingly without a trace. Many of its pioneers were still on the scene, doing smoother stuff. Teenage stars were popular that year, as were guitar instrumentals, particularly the surfing kind.
There were great songs on the airwaves in 1961. Real rock was rare, but it would make a huge comeback in the following years.
AUDIO Listen to the songs of 1961
The well known story of music in 1969 is the journey from the utopia of Woodstock to the murderous unravelling at Altamont. But there was another huge festival that year. Somehow it has slipped from our memories, our histories.
AUDIO Listen to the music of Summer of Soul
The Harlem Cultural Festival ran over six weekends in the summer of 1969, a remarkable celebration of black pride, black music. 300,000 people came to see the hottest acts, including Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Gladys Knight, Fifth Dimension and more.
Film of these concerts sat in a basement for 50 years. Now US music producer Questlove has made a feature film about the Festival, and why it vanished from our remembering of the 60s. Summer of Soul is an accomplished piece of story-telling, and the music is funk at its best.
In 1960s Texas, a band called Moving Sidewalks was a big deal, playing psychedelia to groovy people in Houston, opening shows for The Doors and Jimi Hendrix.
AUDIO Listen to the story of Dusty Hill and ZZ Top
They became a hard-rocking blues band called ZZ Top, with Billy Gibbons, Frank Beard and Dusty Hill. They started having hits in the early 70s, and they saw the 1980s coming, hitching to the top on the brand new MTV.
ZZ Top has been playing ever since, and will continue, despite the death of bass player Dusty Hill in July.
At the tail end of the 1970s, we first heard Rickie Lee Jones, who had an Australian hit about some bloke called Chucky being in love. Turns out, the song was about Chuck E. Weiss, a famous fixture on the Los Angeles music and nightclub scene, contemporary of Rickie and Tom Waits. Together, they were night-hawks, making music and adventure under the California moonlight and neon glow.
Chuck started out as a drummer in Colorado, where he got to back blues legend Lightnin Hopkins. Chuck was a musician, song-writer, and he was the hippest of the hip for decades. He died in July - he was 76.
AUDIO Listen to the story of Chuck E Weiss
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.