Klinger: Aah…there’s nothing like relaxing on a pillowy cloud of soulfulness for a half-hour or so to settle the old nerves, eh Fresh? I feel like a new man.
Mendelsohn: You nailed it, Klinger. I had no idea what I was missing. I mean, I’m familiar with Marvin Gaye—who isn’t? But I never spent any time with his albums and if it weren’t for this little endeavor we’ve embarked on, I don’t think I ever would. And oh what I would have been missing!
I have a very limited knowledge of soul music, but it seems to me that there is something a little bit different about this album compared to the soul albums that had come before it. Shed a little light on this for me.
Klinger: Well, I’d say the main thing is that What’s Going On is one of the few soul albums of its time that was constructed as an album first and foremost. Up until the late 1960s, soul was almost exclusively a singles genre. LPs were generally a few hits scattered among a handful of covers and lesser tracks. But the advent of serious rock writing gave a few artists a new perspective by the end of the decade. After blowing the hippies’ minds at Monterey Pop, Otis Redding was starting to get big picture about his work, but his death seemed to set things back for a couple more years.
Ironically, the big breakthrough happened at Motown, a label that had kept its artists under pretty tight control. Maybe Berry Gordy was preoccupied with the move to L.A., the grooming of the Jackson 5, and the shtupping of Diana Ross, but he seemed unusually willing to cede territory to budding auteurs such as Stevie Wonder and, of course, Marvin Gaye.
But I take it from your response that What’s Going On is to your liking, my funky friend?