Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

1. Marvin GayeWhat’s Going On

There were other albums that I discovered first, but there was something about What’s Going On, which really penetrated within me. I wasn’t that old when it came out, maybe nine or ten. I remember it just being everywhere. I grew up between Sweden and New York, and when that album came out we were living on the Lower East Side in New York. Don, my stepdad, was working on making a soundtrack for this movie called The Holy Mountain, which was made by this very leftfield filmmaker who was based in Mexico. Anyway, we had no money, and there was always this contrast between going from the Swedish countryside to downtown NY, especially in the 70s. It was as deep a contrast as you can get. There was something about the elements of that record, because it was everywhere – it seemed like it was coming out of all the shops and the radio – and in that way it’s always run a thread through my life. It’s always been a soundtrack, which evokes pictures, very filmic pictures.

I think, in retrospect, that it was tied into the fact that at that time we were always driving up at the weekends to visit family up in Harlem. I remember in particular one journey, going up in the car with my Auntie Betty and my brother Eagle Eye, and it was raining. I was looking out at Harlem, and really perceiving a low, a sense of depression – when I watched that film American Gangster with Denzel Washington, it reminded me of that era, where you’d go to Harlem and most of the people were strung out. I think sometimes kids pick up on things can’t articulate them – you don’t necessarily know what it is. Around that same time, my dad was having his own problems with his own re-appearing demons; with drugs and heroin and stuff – and that was something that when it happened, happened in NY. It was in that same era that I discovered that something was wrong with him, when we were there. So, I think the record has always been a very deep and hopeful album, but it’s also very melancholic, and it triggers all these things.

There was a sense in which I had to almost grow up a bit too fast at that time – being on my own a lot, or taking myself and my little brother to school. It was definitely what you’d call a threshold time for me. Now that album, and my whole family’s record collection, the one that I grew up with, and which now consists of my parents’ collection as well as my brother’s and mine, and other people’s added to it – is in Sweden, in an old schoolhouse in the woods, where I also grew up. I still take that album out these days when I’m there.

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