What's Going On? By Marvin Gaye

What's Going On?

1971 | Soul

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"Father, father We don't need to escalate You see, war is not the answer For only love can conquer hate" -- "Don't punish me with brutality Talk to me, so you can see"


  • The song was originally written for The Four Tops' Renaldo benson but was rejected by the group as a protest song. Not wanting it to go to waste Benson presented it to Marvin who added his own lyrical embellishments and made it his own.
  • The songs original lyrics were inspired by the Bloody Thursday riots in Berkeley, California on May 15, 1969. Marvin's contribution leaned heavily into the 1965 Watts riots and conversations with his own brother after returning from returning from Vietnam.
  • The track was released without Barry Gordy's knowledge and despite his protestations that Gaye needed to keep pumping out love songs it reached number 2 on the Billboard hot 100 in 1971.


Luke Tatum

"Only love can conquer hate" has certainly been taken as a mantra of left-authoritarians, perversely happy to inflict aggression on people they don't agree with. That being said, I can still appreciate this song. Smooth vibe, and a solid message if you can look past those who would abuse it.

Sherry Voluntary

“Mother, mother, There's too many of you crying, Brother, brother, brother, There's far too many of you dying.” Thus begins one of the most soulful and beautiful anti-war songs ever written. This song was released in May of 1971, four years before the Vietnam “War” ended. Yet, here we are 48 years later and the weeping of parents for their children lost to unnecessary wars can still be heard. War is the enemy of humanity and the nourishment of The State. Marvin asks “what’s going on? Murray Rothbard has the answer, “It is in war that the State really comes into its own: swelling in power, in number, in pride, in absolute dominion over the economy and the society.” Fighting our way to freedom with preventative war, is a diabolical spook. Understanding this is one of many steps to a truly free society. War should always, in every case, be a very last resort, and only for protection from aggression. Preventative war is only legalized murder.

Nicky P

-I could take the position that this is an anti-war song. Obviously it factors in there, but I think that the song is trying to reach out even farther than that. I think the song is an appeal to move past that part of humanity that clings to our animal urge toward violence as a solution. I think libertarian thinkers in general would agree that speech is preferable to violence. The history of the song pulls more from civil unrest than war but i think goes out of its way to connect them together. The question "What's going on?" seems to be charged with a million voices looking around asking how humanity can be reduced to such violence. I think it's evidenced in the song in a way even they didn't see. I don't think violence is the "human" reaction, I believe its the political reaction. Governments involvement inherently makes violence the go-to solution. I'm making some great speculations here but I think the sexy nature of the song try's to connect it to the passionate part of our psyches.

Created By
Nicky P

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