The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. – Mark 12:31
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today
Nothing changes under the sun. And certainly not the way we treat each other.
“What’s Going On” was the first track on Marvin Gaye’s album by the same title in 1971. It was the same year that i remember distinctly, the busing of hundreds of inner city black kids out to my suburban junior high school in Jacksonville, Florida. I remember the resultant clashes between the blacks and whites and got to experience some of them first-hand; up close and very, very personal.
I was taught at home that you did not judge a man by the color of his skin. People were people and you should get to know them before forming any opinions. And we were all equal in the eyes of the Lord…just separate. What a paradox.
To give me a little life perspective, in 1972 my Dad put me to work – at age 15 – in a warehouse distribution center where I was the only white worker. My Dad was the GM there, but my supervisor was a black man named Willie Reynolds. And Dad must have clued Mr. Willie in, because I got no special treatment. To Mr. Willie, I was no better – or worse – than the dozen other workers on the floor.
It was good duty. Honest work with honest sweat, loading and unloading trucks in the Florida summer heat, and learning that people really are just people. And I learned a bit about the lives of those folks that lived “across the bridge” from the lily white suburbs of Jacksonville.
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
Yes only love can conquer hate, and from the looks of things, we – as Neil Young sang – are gonna need a lotta love. Jesus said our two greatest commandments were to love God with everything we have, and to love our neighbors as much as – or more than – ourselves.
Tell that to the people today in the Gaza Strip.
Tell that to our troops on the ground in Iraq.
And, most of all, tell that to Michael Brown’s family out in Ferguson, Missouri. And if you don’t know about what happened to him, you should just Google “Ferguson’.
Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
“What’s Going On” deals with a lot of problems relative to the human condition, but was originally inspired by a bloody police brutality incident witnessed by one of the song’s co-writers, Renaldo “Obie” Benson (the bass voice for the Four Tops). Benson originally offered the song to his Four Tops band mates, but they turned it down.
“My partners told me it was a protest song”, Benson said later, “I said ‘no man, it’s a love song, about love and understanding. I’m not protesting, I just want to know what’s going on.'” So, he took what he had to Marvin and the rest is history
A few interesting tidbits about the song:
Marvin was good friends with Detroit Lions football players Lem Barney and Mel Farr. “What’s going on” was a common greeting between the three and Marvin invited them to sing backing vocals on the recording.
In the book Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves & Demons of Marvin Gaye, it says that Motown owner, Berry Gordy, didn’t want to release the song, calling it the “worst record I ever heard in my life.”
Take that, Berry – the single sold over 2 million copies and was ranked #4 in Rolling Stone’s 2011 list of the greatest songs of all time.
Father, father, everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply because our hair is long
Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today
That was 1971 and almost 45 years later, nothing has really changed much.
Oh sure, nobody pays much attention to hair length – or even color – anymore. And tolerance is all the rage, in all forms and fashion.
And the Bible says judge not, but we still do.
And we still can’t seem to find a way.
In the meantime…
Right on, baby
Listen to the original here:
Cyndi Lauper cover: