Marvin Gaye: “What’s Going On?”

Marvin GayeFebruary is African American Heritage Month and WERS AT NIGHT is honoring one artist or one song every day this month that helped contribute to social consciousness, political responsibility, or civil rights. At WERS, we believe that these songs are always bigger than just entertainment; music can be used to drive a movement or even motivate a nation.

Today we will be honoring Marvin Gaye’s song “What’s Going On?”

“What’s Going On?” was Marvin Gaye’s second most successful song ever right after “Let’s Get It On.” It was nominated for two Grammy’s and was one of the first songs to successfully use major seventh and minor seventh cords.

This song was originally written for the Four Tops by one of its members. Being inspired by watching police brutality at a protest he co-wrote this song for his group the Four Tops to sing but they declined. He then pitched it to Marvin who added his own flavor to it and released it.

The song was used almost as a soundtrack to anti-war protests and human rights movements. Marvin says: “Picket lines and picket signs. Don’t punish me with brutality. Talk to me. So you can see. What’s going on.” This song is synonymous with the 70s and soul music. This proved that not only can soul artists make people dance but they can make people think. It’s sad to think that Marvin Gaye died way before his time. Who knows what other inspirational songs he could have made?

Join us in honoring “What’s Going On?” Watch the video here.

By Malcolm Gray

If you liked this, check out:
Peter Tosh: “Apartheid”
Public Enemy: “Fight the Power”


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