The only song I knew of Marvin Gaye’s was “Lets Get It On”. Make no mistake that the admittingly similar song title of “What’s Going On” has a very different subject matter. The song is also very… strange. There’s a strange cooing and trilling happening throughout the song alongside saxophones, bongos, guitars and singing especially in the beginning and in the end. I don’t think it ruins the song but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a distracting element. However I also think it gives the song a surreal laid back atmosphere which I assume made it popular in the times.
The song itself makes mention of brutality against black people and too many mothers and brothers crying and dying. He calls for love and peace and to protest without escalation while also decrying war. The song, while obviously a protest anthem and very political, called for love and understanding as it’s main message. Marvin Gaye’s voice and tone is an odd choice for the song in my opinion but it makes sense if you want to convey such a loving and peaceful message. His voice is soft and lulling in a way that most protest singers aren’t. In that way maybe this song was successful in some ways more than others.
I thought it was an okay. I unfortunately would say it wasn’t too memorable but I do appreciate the message it was trying to convey. I do think the more serious aspects of the situation made an otherwise light song heavy handed.