What's Going On

Album: What's Going On (1971)
Charted: 2
  • 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, yea

    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

    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
    Ya, what's going on
    Ah, what's going on

    In the mean time
    Right on, baby
    Right on
    Right on

    Father, father, 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
    Oh

    Picket lines and picket signs
    Don't punish me with brutality
    Talk to me
    So you can see
    What's going on
    Ya, 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

Comments: 25

  • Bobby Mcherrin from Kennesaw,georgia I told people for years that Len Barney and Mel Farr sang background vocals on “What’s Going On”! I guess most people couldn’t believe that two football players had that kind of of singing qualities. I thank God for Marvin Gaye and his legacy.
  • Danny K Manning from Raleigh, North CarolionaThis was one of my favorite songs. I'm a Vietnam vet and during that time his song blessed us to help us keep a settled mind. I sing his song a great deal now and i write for the Carolina Call Newspper in Rleigh nd my own newsletter "The Manning Chronicles.
  • Markantney from BiloxeJul16,

    Noah, if I'm getting your question correct, Vietnam was heavy on his mind during this album. His brother had recently returned I believe. That and it was on the tail end of Civil Rights, MLK and Kennedy assassinations,..
  • Noah from WinnipegmbWhat conflict is he referring to?
  • Markantney from Biloxi, MsForgot to add, as a kid I'd be in my own little world (playing, watching TV,...) and as soon as I'd hear that (Alto?) Sax and those Brothas mumbling in the the background; I'd stop what I was doing to hear that song.

    I've always wondered why an instrumental wasn't released or popular, based on the opening of "What's Goin On". It's one of the most memorable openings of song I can recall?
  • Markantney from Biloxi, MsTo Gordy's credit, (to a degree) he cops to the Brain Cramp in a Bio I saw on either Motown or Marvin.

    But he never really explained how/why he believed it wasn't a Great Song?

    I was a mere Puppy when this came out and though I wasn't mature enough to fully understand the lyrics/message; it was a Hit the first time I heard it.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 14th, 1971, "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #81; and on April 4th it peaked at #2 (for 3 weeks) and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100 (and for 8 of those 15 weeks it was on the Top 10)...
    And on March 21st, 1971 it reached #1 (for 5 weeks) on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    The first week it was at #2, the #1 record was "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" by the Temptations; and for its 2nd and 3rd week it was "Joy To The World" by Three Dog Night that was in the top spot...
    On the R&B Singles chart it knocked "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" out off the top spot on March 21st...
    R.I.P. Mr. Gay (1939 - 1984).
  • Joseph from Bronx, NyTo follow up on the comment on bassist James Jamerson. Gaye insisted he be there; he was subsequently found in a club in Detroit, and brought back to the studio (Motown’s famous Studio A - The "Snakepit"). However he was too drunk to sit in the chair — he kept slumping down and falling off. Eventually, he ended up playing the song — one of the most famous bass lines in history — lying on his back, with another musician holding the sheet music suspended over his head.
  • Don from Aurora, OhWhen you read a little about Marvin Gaye you will understand why he was as deep and profound as he was! This man went through a lot and he was a very sensitive person and able to take all that pain and turn it into something genius. I remember something I heard when visiting the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Smokey Robinson said of Marvin when he was writing" What's Going On" when he talked to Gaye on the phone Gaye said he was not writing this album God was! This guy was a sensitive soul and we all should be thankful he graced this planet and left us with so many gifts!
  • Derek from London, United KingdomBassist James Jamerson was called in last minute to perform for the recording as the session bassits couldn't get it down. Jamerson, a stroppy Motown genious got it down in minutes and played it with his back on the floor due to his physical and possibly mental status.
    - Stratis, Brighton, England
    That's my favourite musical fact ever.... He was absolutely wasted on this session, according to Jack Ashford who was present at the session.... But some other musician called Carole Kaye claims to have played on that session! Everyone said it was Jamerson on those sessions!
  • Ahmed from Chorley, United Kingdomat Johnny, LA:

    funny u should say that, because Hendrix apparently wanted to join Motown and become a sould/RnB singer, but could only find work/record label as a guitarist.
  • Scott from Palm Desert, CaAlthough I was 11 when this came out and I didn't understand the lyrics I loved this song.
  • Greg from Menlo Park, CaGaye became friends with Lions players Mel Farr and Lem Barney (one of the most underrated football players ever) because he actually tried out for the Lions in 1970. He didn't make the team but was good enough that his tryout was taken seriously, and he put on 50lbs training.
  • Stratis from Brighton, EnglandBassist James Jamerson was called in last minute to perform for the recording as the session bassits couldn't get it down. Jamerson, a stroppy Motown genious got it down in minutes and played it with his back on the floor due to his physical and possibly mental status.
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaAnd also, Tammi did not die in Marvin Gaye's arms. She had a brain tumor and from then on her health deteriorated.
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaI would say Hendrix is better then Marvin Gaye, because Hendrix revolutionized the guitar. And I am more of a rock guy then a mowtown guy. But Marvin Gaye is by far the best in motown (him and Stevie Wonder, actually). His songs have so much meaning. Also nice comment by Nathan.
  • Ray from Stockton, Njthis song had meaning when it first came out and still has meaning 35 years after. This is my mom's favorite song. The thing that hurts me the most is that Hendrix and Lennon dying is a really big deal and Marvin gaye's isnt.Hendrix died because of drugs I think that's your fault yet everyone feels sorry for you(i don't weant to sound mean because i like hendrix) . Lennon got shot by a random guy. Then Marvin Gaye gets shot by his father. Nobody makes a big big deal out of it. In my opinion Marvin Gaye was a better artist than Jimi Hendrix because hendrix did a lot of remakes of songs. I just think its terrible that everyone makes a huge deal in New York about lennon. i mean their was a 3 page article in the new york post about lennon. when gaye's death anniversery comes up nobdy does anything(at lest not much).
  • Nathan from From The Country Of, Canadaaren't we all still asking ourselves whats going on almost 40 years later?
  • Elaine from Waldorf, MdThe album "What's Going On" is in my opinion, one of, if not the best album of all time. The themes are timeless--war, poverty, drug addiction. I loved Marvin Gaye and I don't think there's another performer who comes close to him.
  • Brian from Melfort, Sask, Canadaydur from Knoxville is not totally right, He Married Berry Gordy's Sister Anna from 1961-75, and he wasn't shot on his birthday, it was a day before his birthday
  • Ydur from Knoxville, TnMarvin was an interesting guy; He was kin to Barry Gordy (I think he married Barry's daugter or sister), lived in an abandoned bread truck in Hawaii in a fashion befitting an accomplished hobo (AFTER he was famous), and was ulitamtely shot and killed by his own father (a preacher, no less)on his birthday.
  • Ross from Independence, MoIt is #4 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
  • Kirstin from Hereford, MdThe cover by A Perfect Circle in reaction to the war with Iraq is a very heartbreaking, slow alternative to this song. I wouldn't say one is better than the other, but A Perfect Circle creates a very different feeling in the listener. It's amazing how this song applies to two very different wars and two very different counter culture movements.
  • Horace from Western, MdThe song bridge wa reused in the songs "Mercy, Mercy, Me" and "Inner City Blues", both of which also became hit singles.
  • Horace from Western, MdLem Barney and Mel Farr, on the Detroit Lions football team at the time, provided backing volcals.
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