Marvin Gaye’s rippling message

Jasmine Howard
Staff Writer

“For only love can conquer hate.” This was a lyric from the timeless song “What’s Goin’ On,” sung by the incomparable Marvin Gaye. If there’s one thing that could help us get through our heavy emotions during this time in our country, it very well may be music.

During the 1960s, Marvin Gaye was countlessly supplying Motown with hits. However, events of the decade made Gaye look deeper into his view of the world. It made him question the value and importance of his music. This was when John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. It had just seemed like hope was out the door.

Following all of this, Tammi Terrell, his go-to singing partner, had died. Gaye was at a point where, as puts it, “the idea of singing silly love songs while the world was falling apart seemed absurd to him.” Marvin Gaye took his pain and he put that emotion in his music.

I know firsthand that were two things that got me through my own experiences with hate: God and music. I still to this day walk with my headphones in my ears because that is how I coped. I listened to artists like Marvin Gaye say,

“We’ve got to find a way/ To bring some lovin’ here today.”

These messages still stand today and this song still resonates. It’s a crazy thing to think about, knowing that the album “What’s Goin’ On” came out in 1971 and is still relevant in 2016.

It makes us sit down and think: What really is going on? Marvin Gaye said it best. There are too many of us crying. There are too many of us dying. It showed me that I was not the only one being targeted.

“Picket lines and picket signs/Don’t punish me with brutality/ Talk to me, so you can see/ Oh, what’s going on.”

Police brutality, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia. This list is long and it should not be. I have always felt that music is the neutral healer for all. If there is one thing we can all possibly agree on, it is the love for music. Music can get us through the worst of our days and bring us from our pain.

Marvin Gaye once said about the song and album, saying “I remember I was listening to a tune of mine playing on the radio, ‘Pretty Little Baby,’ when the announcer interrupted with the news about the [1965] Watts riot. My stomach got real tight and my heart started beating like crazy. I wanted to throw the radio down and burn the songs I’d been singing. Why didn’t our music have anything to do with this?”

Right now, we need Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” more than ever. We need that message. We need him to ask us that question and to remind us that everything can be cured with love. We need to take hatred and use it as a motivator in our journey towards love and peace within our country.


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