In 1971, a review in Rolling Stone claimed that “Gaye has designed his album as one many-faceted statement on conditions in the world today” and, almost 50 years later, his album What’s Going On is more poignant than ever. Amidst London’s Extinction Rebellion and the current political climate, songs like ‘Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)’ and ‘Save the Children’ have never resonated more. Therefore, despite the confusion over the sudden release of his ‘lost’ follow up album You’re the Man, recorded in 1972, I believe another Marvin Gaye record could not have come at a more perfect time.
it’s a harrowing reminder of how little has changed in 50 years and its release in 2019 could not have been more poignant
35 years after his tragic death, and in the year the legendary Motown singer would have turned 80, this album is a powerful reminder of the events that were taking place in the ‘70s and the issues that are still unresolved today. Deemed too radical for release by Motown’s Berry Gordon, You’re the Man preaches further concerns about the state of the world: “I believe that America’s at stake” and “the world’s situation / should be rated X”. Whilst the album plays homage to its predecessor in content, it does in its guitar riffs and backing vocals too. It includes melodies that mirror those found in ‘Inner City Blues’ and instrumental experimentation that echoes the solo flute in ‘Right On’.
However, it is easy to see why You’re the Man was the album excluded by Motown. More free-flowing in its form, it is a passionate and rebellious work with Gaye trying to say even more. Whilst What’s Going On was highly controversial too, it feels more conservative than Gaye’s latest release.
More free-flowing in its form, it is a passionate and rebellious work with Gaye trying to say even more
You’re the Man features aggressive funk lines, dramatic percussion and even uses spoken word in ‘Checking Out (Double Clutch)’; the album strays from the squeaky-clean Motown voices of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. Almost as though Gaye was striving for a sound similar to that of Curtis Mayfield or Sly and the Family Stone.
You’re the Man is a harrowing reminder of how little has changed in 50 years and its release in 2019 could not have been more poignant. It, along with What’s Going On, has the power to inspire a new generation of artists troubled by politics, the environment and the search for love in the modern era. As Marvin Gaye once mused: “with the world exploding around me, how am I supposed to keep singing love songs?” and this will likely be the mantra for the next cohort of young artists. Music has the power to question the world we live in and change it for the better.