Lyrical Essay

In: Film and Music

Submitted By weaponx4lyfe
Words 684
Pages 3
What’s Going On?
From the moment I heard the song, What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, it became one of my favorite lyrically appeasing songs. Written by Renaldo Benson, Al Cleveland and Gaye himself, this song reflects on certain incidents of police brutality and war horror stories. Some of the song refers to an police brutality incident witnessed by Renaldo “Obie” Benson in the People’s Park during a protest held by anti-war activists in what was later called “Bloody Thursday”. Some of Marvin Gaye’s personal experiences were also reflected in this song; he had just lost his beloved duet partner Tammi Terrell to a three year battle with a brain tumor, and his brother, Frankie, had just returned from the Vietnam War with stories “that moved Gaye to tears”. Marvin Gaye sought a channel in which he could express his sorrow and frustration with society, which is how this song came about. This song was produced in the 70s and in Motown, which means that the song definitely had a jazz and gospel tone. The blending between the music of the time period and the issues of the time period caused the song to become a great hit. It topped the Hot Soul Singles chart for 5 weeks and became number two on the Billboard Top 100 chart. The song sold over 2 million copies causing it to become Marvin Gaye’s second most successful Motown song.
The song focused on major seventh and minor seventh chords, and was developed using sounds of jazz, gospel and classical music orchestration. It was mainly viewed as a meditation on the troubles and problems of the world, including the Vietnam War.This song can be classified as a jazz/gospel song. Part of his lyrics read: “Picket lines and picket signs, Don’t punish me with brutality” which represents the various protest strikes held against the Vietnam War. One significant protest was that at Kent State were college students burned the ROTC room in…...

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