Forty-nine years after being released, Marvin Gaye’s seminal “What’s Going On?” still resonates.
So much so, the beloved 1971 opus has been named No. 1 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
Seventeen years after first publishing such a list, the revered music magazine has revamped the rankings, giving it a “less rock-centric” touch in the process.
“When we first published the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in December 2003, Amy Winehouse was still three years from releasing ‘Back to Black,’ and Kendrick Lamar’s ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city,’ was almost a decade away; many of today’s top musicians (and fans) weren’t in middle school yet,” Rolling Stone editor Jason Fine wrote in an article announcing the update.
The listing now features 154 new entries not previously on the 500 list, and 86 albums from the 21st Century.
It’s a major shift for the magazine, which was founded in 1967 by Jann Wenner and mostly celebrated rock music.
Among the standouts are the addition of two Prince albums to the top 50, 1987 1/4 u2032s “Sign O' the Times” at No. 45 and the 1984 juggernaut “Purple Rain” coming in the eighth position.
Lauryn Hill’s acclaimed 1998 solo debut, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” catapulted more than 300 spots on the list to now round out the top 10.
“The goal wasn’t to update the list but blow it up and re-create it from scratch, reflecting both the canon of pop music and the ever-shifting currents of taste,” Fine explained. “We fielded more than 300 ballots from musicians, producers, journalists, and execs. Everyone from Beyoncé and Lin-Manuel Miranda to Taylor Swift and Brittany Howard voted.”
Gaye’s “What’s Going On” replaced the Beatles' “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in the top spot.
Considered the late singer/songwriter’s best work of art, the self-produced effort contained nine tracks told from the point of view of a Vietnam veteran returning to his home country to witness hatred, suffering, and injustice.
According to Rolling Stone, Gaye “was in a dark and contemplative place, wounded by the death of his frequent duet partner Tammi Terrell, yearning to sing subtler and more substantive material, and mulling over his brother Frankie’s horrifying tales of his recent stint fighting in Vietnam.”
The introspective lyrics exploring themes of substance abuse, poverty, religion, and war, yielded the multiplatinum-selling title track, alongside R&B staples such as “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology),” “Wholy Holy” and the Grammy Award nominated "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).
“What emerged was soul music’s first concept album, and one of the most important and influential LPs ever made,” Rolling Stone wrote.
Throughout the decades, singers and vocalists such as Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Cyndi Lauper, Robert Palmer, Donny Hathaway, Angela Winbush and Milira recorded renditions of songs from the Tamla/Motown album.
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