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Whats Going On

Whats Going On

Marvin Gaye
Whats Going On

Song Meaning and Background of What's Going On by Marvin Gaye

What's Going On" is a beautiful cry for world peace performed by a man in the midst of a catastrophe. Marvin Gaye was the top male vocalist for Motown in 1970, but he was dissatisfied with the assembly-line approach he used to creating his own hits.

Gaye was locked in a tumultuous marriage to Anna Gordy, the sister of Motown executive Berry Gordy, and was devastated by the loss of her duet partner Tammi Terrell, who passed away in March after a three-year fight with a brain tumour. Gaye's connection with his strict father, Marvin Sr., troubled him as well.

Four Tops member Renaldo Benson gave Gaye a tune he and Motown employee Al Cleveland had co-written. Gaye took control of the arrangement, though, and added his personal pain to the song's allusions to race conflict and war. Gaye contributed cardboard box percussion to the gorgeous rhythm track that the Funk Brothers, a Motown session band, created.

Upset by the current situation in the USA, Benson said he asked himself, "'What is happening here?' One question led to another. Why are they sending kids so far away from their families overseas? Why are they attacking their own children in the streets?" 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." Gaye also asked himself, "'With the world exploding around me, how am I supposed to keep singing love songs?'"

The song reached number 2 on the Billboard top 100 in the USA.

Lyrics of What's Going On by Marvin Gaye

Hey, hey-hey

Hey, what's happenin'?

Hey, brother, what's happenin'?

Boy, this is a groovy party (Hey, how you doin'?)

Man, I can dig it

Yeah, brother, solid, right on

What's happenin'?

Hey, man, what's happening?


Everything is everything

We're gonna do a get down today, boy, I'll tell ya


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 - yeah


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)


Picket lines (Sister) and picket signs (Sister)

Don't punish me (Sister) with brutality (Sister)

Talk to me (Sister), so you can see (Sister)

Oh, what's going on (What's going on)

What's going on (What's going on)

Yeah, what's going on (What's going on)

Oh, what's going on


(In the meantime, right on, baby)

Woo (Right on, baby), woo

Ah-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya, ya-ya-ya-ya-ya

Woo (Right on, baby, right on)

Right on

Ah-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya, ya-ya-ya-ya-ya


Mother, mother, everybody thinks we're wrong

Oh, but who are they to judge us

Simply because our hair is long

Oh, you know we've got to find a way

To bring some understanding here today



Picket lines and picket signs

Don't punish me with brutality

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 - uh

Right on baby

Right on baby

Release Date



Al Cleveland, Renaldo Benson, Marvin Gaye


Marvin Gaye



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