♫ What’s Going On ♫ (Redux)

Yes, another redux, but … frankly, in light of our circumstances today, there are few songs that fit the times better than this one by Marvin Gaye.  “For only love can conquer hate.”  Enough said …


There’s a lot of history to this song … more than I can cover in a brief blurb here.  The inspiration for the song came from Renaldo “Obie” Benson, a member of the Four Tops, after he and the group’s tour bus arrived at Berkeley on May 15, 1969. While there, Benson witnessed police brutality and violence in the city’s People’s Park during a protest held by anti-war activists in what was hailed later as “Bloody Thursday”.

Upset by what he had seen, he discussed what he witnessed to friend and songwriter Al Cleveland, who in turn wrote and composed a song to reflect Benson’s concerns. Benson wanted to give the song to his group but the other Four Tops turned down the request, saying it was a protest song.

“I said ‘no man, it’s a love song, about love and understanding. I’m not protesting, I want to know what’s going on.'”

In 1970, Benson presented the untitled song to Marvin Gaye, who added a new melody and revised the song to his liking, adding in his own lyrics. Benson later said Gaye tweaked and enriched the song, “added some things that were more ghetto, more natural, which made it seem like a story than a song… we measured him for the suit and he tailored the hell out of it.”

Motown founder Berry Gordy was against Gaye doing the song, saying …

“Motown was about music for all people—white and black, blue and green, cops and the robbers. I was reluctant to have our music alienate anyone. This was a big risk for his image.”

By some accounts there was a bitter quarrel between Gaye and Gordy over the song, but Gordy denies it.

Two bits of trivia about Marvin Gaye that I did not know until tonight:

  • He was married to Berry Gordy’s sister, Anna, from 1963 until their divorce in 1977
  • Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his own father on 01 April 1984, after breaking up a fight between his parents.  Gaye was one day shy of his 45th birthday.  His father was given a suspended sentence and probation.

And now … What’s Going On …

What’s Going On
Marvin Gaye

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, eheh

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
Yeah, what’s going on
Ah, what’s going on

In the mean time
Right on, baby
Right on brother
Right on babe

Mother, mother, everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply ’cause our hair is long
Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today
Oh oh oh

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
C’mon talk to me
So you can see
What’s going on
Yeah, what’s going on
Tell me what’s going on
I’ll tell you what’s going on, ooh ooo ooo ooo
Right on baby
Right on baby

Songwriters: Alfred W Cleveland / Marvin P Gaye / Renaldo Benson
What’s Going On lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

22 thoughts on “♫ What’s Going On ♫ (Redux)

  1. A very mellow song carrying very important lyrics.Another one of my old favourite records says When will they ever learn Oh when will they ever learn. We’ve been asking that question a long time,.Time to raise our voices.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interestingly, I had that same song in my mind, and it is on the schedule for my song of the day this morning. The answer to the question, though, I have now concluded is “Never”. Humans have had thousands of years to learn kindness, compassion, acceptance, tolerance, etc., and they haven’t learned a damn thing. Time to raise our voices, perhaps, but … think how many times in the past voices have been raised for this very cause. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, and the list goes on. But, did we learn anything? Sigh. 🐺
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great minds and all that aside…this very song came to me late last night!! Due to extreme stress overload and physical exhaustion, both symptoms of my chronic Trumpitis flaring up again, I had taken to my bed in a room illuminated by only a scented jar candle to recoup. I have found that this along with a wee goblet of a fine wine and some softly played instrumental music, usually Yanni or The Piano Guys, are both palliative and restorative. But, I digress. As I sat nestled amidst the numerous pillows with my eyes closed and allowed my thoughts to freely travel where they would they kept returning to a senseless murder and the ensuing riots and then unbidden this song charged into my mind. I had to find this album and listen to this song and I did! In truth that was not difficult, I have played it more than once to listen to “Save the Children” which is also on the “What’s Going On” album. That song has also become increasingly relevant to our times, due to trump. I found it interesting to note that this album was released May 21, 1971 and thought to myself how sad it is that not much has changed in nearly 50 years!! Thank-you for sharing this song at a time when it needs to be heard…again!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Trumpitis is at the epidemic level this week, perhaps even the pandemic level! I’m so sorry, though, that yours has flared up again, as has my own. Sigh. I like the ‘great minds think alike’ scenario … I actually got the idea for this one the same place I got the idea for the previous one … my blogging friend Michael Seidel. It’s funny, because he and I typically are 180° apart in our musical tastes. For Monday’s music post, I wanted to return to something light and upbeat, but I found I simply couldn’t, so I played … well, you’ll see. 😉 Let us share a small 🍷🍷 and hope for a better week ahead, my friend. ❤

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  3. Jill, this song resonates still today. We need to cry out as a nation, this is not right. We cannot let people focus on just one episode, as there is a pattern.

    Too many African-Americans are dying, being incarcerated, and being diminished in a significantly disproportional way. No one deserves to die at the hands of vigilantes or police. I recognize the dangerous and difficult job of police officers, but it would be made easier if they policed themselves of bad actions and officers, which every group has. Officers must be supported in calling out and stopping bad actions. If they cannot, this will continue. The Pilots Union has a good model to follow in investigating plane crashes. But, I also ask the protestors causing violence must also stop, as they distract from the message. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • Maybe as far as white people are concerned they are distracting from the message. Ask a person of colour, and they will tell you they are once again calling attention to the inequities and inequalities between life as a white person, and life as a coloured person. It’s all a matter of perspective. I wish no one would get hurt, but I’m all for the riots. People are showing their desperation for change.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Rawgod, I very much support civil disobedience and protest. Rioting and looting punish the wrong people, so I cannot condone such. The best thing happening, in my view, is police officers joining the protests. Now, they need to walk the talk. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • I haven’t seen or heard of any police joining the protesters, but we don’t always get all the news up here.
          But you cannot look at these riots as punishing anyone. First, more than 90% of all protesters are peaceful, they just want to show solidarity in a time that the government is hellbent on separating them from each other. Second, the videos up here are clearly showing a lot of the looters are white. They are trying to take advantage of the protests, hoping their crimes will be blamed on blacks.
          Third, when the cops are sent out in riot gear, or the national guard is sent in, how can anyone feel but threatened. When you are scared while protesting needless black murders, it is easy to switch into a mob situation. Mobs react without questions.
          We already know sitting back and waiting for someone else to do something is not going to bring change. Change is not a want, it is a necessity. And it is needed now, not twenty years down the road.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed it does, as is the one I’m playing today, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” This nation is crying out, but the people who need to listen, aren’t listening. I think that this will continue, for there is no real effort being made to stop it. Under Obama, there was a plan that was being put into place to police the police department, to weed out bigots, to provide training and education, but as soon as Trump took office, like so many other things, it was tossed in the trash. And now look where we are tonight. Sigh.

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