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Freddy P. / Blog

What's Goin' On?

Marvin Gaye was definitely one of the most influential musicians of his time. With the Vietnam War in full swing, and the effects of this event causing racial tension in America, there was one voice strong enough to represent this historical period. This was evident enough even to Nelson Mandela. During his 1990 tour, he stopped by the Motor City of Detroit to speak to the people. During his speech he could not help but reflect on these words "Brother, brother, there's far too many of you dying. Mother, mother, there's far too many of you crying..." sung by Marvin Gaye in What's Going On. It was the brainchild of Renaldo "Obie" Benson of the Four Tops, along with the help of lyricist Al Cleveland who had penned this song. But this song was not just another hit record, but a special piece of history that will always be remembered. But like the protestors of the Vietnam War, the release of this song was also held in opposition. Berry Gordy of Motown, did not like the idea of producing a song that portrayed itself as being protest music. Berry Gordy refused to release What's Going On, reportedly calling it "the worst thing I've ever heard in my life", and further asked, 'Marvin, why do you want to ruin your career? But this song had a lot of meaning to Marvin. It was events like the shootings of Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy, violence in the streets of Detroit, and in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention of 1968, and at Kent State University in 1970. With all of this happening, one could not help but to wonder how we could send a man into outer space to walk on the moon, which costs unbelievable amounts of money, when there was economic desperation in America. It was times like these that made one ask. What the heck is going on?