Stewart Maganga does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Many protest songs are historical artefacts. They are about a specific time, event, movement or person, often without longevity, and make sense only within a specific context. There are a few exceptions.
Almost never released
What's Going On is the eleventh studio album by American soul singer, songwriter, and producer Marvin Gaye. It was released on May 21, , by the Motown Records -subsidiary label Tamla. Gaye recorded the album between and in sessions at Hitsville U. It was his first album to credit him as a producer and to credit Motown's in-house studio band, the session musicians known as the Funk Brothers. What's Going On is a concept album with most of its songs segueing into the next and has been categorized as a song cycle ; the album ends with a reprise of the album's opening theme. The narrative established by the songs is told from the point of view of a Vietnam veteran returning to his home country to witness hatred, suffering, and injustice. Gaye's introspective lyrics explore themes of drug abuse, poverty, and the Vietnam War. He has also been credited with promoting awareness of ecological issues before the public outcry over them had become prominent. The album was an immediate commercial and critical success, eventually being regarded as a classic of s soul. In , a deluxe edition of the album was released, featuring a recording of Gaye's May concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.
Marvin Gaye's protest anthem 'What's Going On' was a powerful and groundbreaking song at the time of its release in , but fast forward nearly 50 years later and it is sadly still just as relevant for the world in With the huge spark of protests in the US and around the world against racism following the death of George Floyd , the subject of police brutality and racial injustice is just as big a problem today as it was then. Marvin Gaye co-wrote 'What's Going On' about the issues of the time, but little did he know that over 30 years after his death, tragically it still sounds as if it could have been written yesterday. The song marked Gaye's departure from the Motown Sound of his previous output, towards more personal material. The album is a concept album, with most of its songs mixing into the next, and has been categorized as a song cycle. The narrative in the songs is told from the point of view of a Vietnam veteran returning to his home country to witness hatred, suffering, and injustice. The song's inspiration came from Benson, a member of the Motown group the Four Tops, after their tour bus arrived at Berkeley on May 15, While there, Benson witnessed police brutality and violence in the city's People's Park during a protest held by anti-war activists, in what was described later as 'Bloody Thursday'. Upset by the incident, Benson told author Ben Edmonds the he asked, 'What is happening here?
Originally inspired by a police brutality incident witnessed by Renaldo "Obie" Benson , the song was composed by Benson, Al Cleveland , and Gaye and produced by Gaye himself. The song marked Gaye's departure from the Motown Sound towards more personal material. Later topping the Hot Soul Singles chart for five weeks and crossing over to number two on the Billboard Hot , it would sell over two million copies, becoming Gaye's second-most successful Motown song to date. The song topped Detroit 's Metro Times list of the Greatest Detroit Songs of All Time,  and in , Rolling Stone magazine ranked it the fourth-greatest song of all time ; in its updated list, the song remained at that position. The song's inspiration came from Renaldo "Obie" Benson , a member of the Motown vocal group the Four Tops , after he and the group's tour bus arrived at Berkeley on May 15, Why are they sending kids so far away from their families overseas? Why are they attacking their own children in the streets?