Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On”

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Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On” Tamla (T 54201) – January 20, 1971

“What’s Going On” is a song by American recording artist Marvin Gaye, released in 1971 on the Motown subsidiary Tamla. Originally inspired by a police brutality incident witnessed by Renaldo “Obie” Benson.

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“What’s Going On” is a song by American recording artist Marvin Gaye, released in 1971 on the Motown subsidiary Tamla. Originally inspired by a police brutality incident witnessed by Renaldo “Obie” Benson, the song was composed by Benson, Al Cleveland and Gaye and produced by Gaye himself.

The song, which focused on major seventh and minor seventh chords, and was oriented in sounds by jazz, gospel and classical music orchestration, was mainly viewed as a meditation on the troubles and problems of the world, proving to be a timely and relatable release, and marked Gaye’s departure from the Motown Sound towards more personal material.

Later topping the Hot Soul Singles chart for five weeks and crossing over to number two on the Billboard Hot 100, it would sell over two million copies, becoming Gaye’s second-most successful Motown song to date.

The song topped Detroit’s Metro Times list of the 100 Greatest Detroit Songs of All Time, and in 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it the fourth-greatest song of all time; in its updated 2011 list, the song remained at that position. It is included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list, along with two other songs by the singer.It was also listed at number fourteen on VH-1’s 100 Greatest Rock Songs.

What’s Going On was released by Tamla (T 54201) – January 20, 1971

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What’s Going On

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 Cleveland / Alfred W Cleveland / Marvin Gaye / Marvin P Gaye / Renaldo Benson

What’s Goin’ On lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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