Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

7. Marvin GayeWhat’s Going On

When you ask me about whether this was an influence, the first thing that comes to my mind is Philadelphia, more than Motown. Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and Barry White, and that kind of sound. Certainly after our third album, A New Flame, that was very much influenced by Philadelphia. I found it very difficult to be influenced by Motown, because the sound of Motown was so unique that Stewart [Levine] and I, we very much backed away from it. By the mid-80s, that 60s Motown sound was a big cliché, and we wanted to make something more modern. But then again, that’s what What’s Going On is. It’s the album that took Motown away from what you might describe as the 45 sound, singles sound, of The Supremes and The Four Tops. The What’s Going On album was one of those mind-expanding records, wasn’t it? It blew Stevie Wonder’s mind and inspired him to make Music of My Mind and Innervisions. It had an impact on everybody. And I know that Berry Gordy thought it was a failure initially, so he got his comeuppance from the sheer genius of it. Again, it’s an album to listen to from beginning to end. In fact it makes you do that because the tracks, they don’t really end, they just drift into another track. It’s one of those moments of genius when everything came together – the engineering, the band, the songs – he just really hit something. I was torn between Let’s Get It On and this, that’s also a great album, for many years I preferred it; but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come back to fully appreciate the the originality and the ground-breaking brilliance of What’s Going On.

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