♫ What’s Going On ♫

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

Eve of Destruction

My music choices these days seem to run to protest songs … the other night I couldn’t get Joan Baez’ The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down out of my head, and then tonight, as I was responding to comments, writing my post about Trump unleashed on the UK, and answering email, I found myself humming Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction.  I hesitated to share this one, for it isn’t a happy, upbeat cheery song.  But, it is reflective of how I feel tonight, and therefore it is honest and genuine … something this country could use a lot more of.  So, without further ado, and with a promise to be cheerier on the morrow, I give you Barry McGuire …

Eve of Destruction
Barry McGuire

The eastern world, it is explodin’,
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’,
You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’,
You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’,
And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin’,
But you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Don’t you understand, what I’m trying to say?
And can’t you feel the fears I’m feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no running away,
There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave,
Take a look around you, boy, it’s bound to scare you, boy,
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Yeah, my blood’s so mad, feels like coagulatin’,
I’m sittin’ here, just contemplatin’,
I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation,
Handful of Senators don’t pass legislation,
And marches alone can’t bring integration,
When human respect is disintegratin’,
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’,
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China!
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama!
Ah, you may leave here, for four days in space,
But when your return, it’s the same old place,
The poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace,
You can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace,
Hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace,
And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend,
You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.
No, no, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Songwriters: P. F. Sloan, 1965
Eve of Destruction lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group