Birge's Picks

Birge's Picks: What's Going on?

Marvin Gaye's album 'What's Going On' was released on May 21, 1971.Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty

Check out John Birge's picks for this week

May 20, 2021

Friday is the 50th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s landmark album What’s Going On, a visionary song cycle on civil rights and injustice. Our public radio colleagues at KEXP will celebrate What’s Going On Day all day: “Marvin used his platform as an artist to talk about what he was seeing in the world: people struggling to survive — addiction, rampant police brutality, and ecological disaster. Fifty years later, this album is as relevant as ever. On Friday, May 21st, join KEXP in celebrating a half-century of this landmark in music, while recognizing how much farther we still have to go.”

I’ll add a Classical shout-out to the album’s violinist Gordon Staples, former Detroit Symphony concertmaster and Motown session legend.

What’s Going On was an extraordinary vision in its day, and even more remarkable to realize that now, fifty years later, it’s still as timely as today’s headlines. Those headlines include the 1st anniversary of the murder of George Floyd on May 25. Our colleagues at MPR News will commemorate the event all day with Capturing History

And our friends at the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra dedicate a special program to George Floyd’s life with a live stream program called Songs of Sorrow, Songs of Hope“We dedicate this program in honor of his life. We continue to grieve for him, for his family and with the Black community. After a year filled with uncertainty, this program offers music of mourning and healing.”