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Reflecting on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On"

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This week has made me reflect on one of my favorite songs of all time. And maybe the best thing about it is the fact the song, released in 1971, is still relevant— possibly even more-so today.

Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” almost never happened. Motown CEO Barry Gordy almost shelved the album. See, Marvin was known for his ‘pop’ hits at that time— and this record was a completely different direction for him. It was socially conscious, hitting at subjects not necessarily PG friendly—drugs, war, poverty, and racism. Gordy didn’t think an album focusing on that type of stuff would do well.

You tell me if these lyrics aren’t relevant now:

“Mother Mother
There’s too many of you crying”

“Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying”

“Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate”

And then he asks the all important question—


Between soldiers dying in Afghanistan…an economy growing slowly… a wage gap that should’ve never existed in the first place… and a struggle over what makes a marriage— that question is very important in 2012.

President Obama said he struggled with that last issue for quite some time, and finally announced that civil unions weren’t enough. Was it a political ploy to pick up votes? I have no idea. Did Vice President Joe Biden probably push him along? Yeah. Look-- I’m not trying to preach. I don’t care where you stand on the issue. But we all have to admit that not everyone has equal rights. That’s a problem.

So now we ALL have to ask ourselves the question--


“Everybody thinks we’re wrong
But who are they to judge us

Simply because our hair is long”

And Marvin is right.

We HAVE to find a way to bring some understanding here today. They say we should leave the world better than the way we found it. We’ve got a long way to go. Let’s get started.

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