A Social Commentary: Mother, mother, there's too many of you crying.
Updated: Feb 15, 2022
The media cycle is in heavy rotation in recognizing and acknowledging the 50th anniversary of arguably one of the most eloquently written and passionately sung albums of all time - What's Going On? - as it should be. The opening lines
Mother, mother; 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 ...
are far beyond what Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Al Cleveland asked and expressed when they put pen to paper, the complexities and disparities of societal ills in the title track. They put into the forefront the Vietnam War, the civil unrest throughout the nation as Black people advocated for the right to vote, attend desegregated schools, and combat police brutality. In the track, Save the Children, the question "Who really cares, to save a world in despair? Who really cares?" addressed the murder of four little girls in Birmingham, Alabama. Next, Marvin wrote and sang Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology), as he addressed climate issues head-on with the lyrics,
Woah mercy, mercy me, yeah. Ah, things ain't what they used to be ... Oil wasted on the ocean and upon our seas; Fish full of mercury
as he continued to sing throughout on every song of the album into the depths of the souls of what many encounters daily. The record is more than a compilation of music. What's Going On? is a cry akin to a demand for social justice and racial equity. Simply put, it was a societal commentary on life up and through its May 21, 1971 release date.
Inner City Blues cries out.
Oh ... crime is ... increasing; Trigger happy policing; Panic is spreading; God knows where we're heading; Oh, make me want to holler; They don't understand ... This ain't livin, this ain't livin.
Here we are, 50 years later, and asking the same question - What's Going On? Xenophobia, homophobia, elder abuse, white supremacy, racial profiling, disparities in education and health care, child abuse, sexism, racism, bigotry, and prejudice continue to infiltrate all that is humane and just in the world. To eradicate these wrongs, movements, organizations, companies, and more importantly, individuals have enjoined to eradicate societal ills. Our Black, Asian, Latino, LGBTQ, Hispanic, persons with disabilities communities are tired of the discrimination, bigotry, prejudice they individually and collectively encounter. Humankind's maltreatment of the earth contributes to rising sea levels, drought, pollution, extinction of life, and the overall destruction of the planet. As of now, we live on one planet, and we need to take care of it.
We have experienced light and upliftment through all the adversity, even if it is for a moment. Sometimes, the obstacles that we encounter become opportunities to turn things around or at the very least. bring atrocities further into the limelight to push for change. This is how the actions of 15-year old Claudette Colvin when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a non-Black person engaged the NAACP to enlist Rosa Parks to do the same, and thus the catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement began. When young Black children were underperforming in the school and questions arose from academics about why this was happening, the Black Panthers began a free breakfast program for the students, and their grades began to rise. Several organizations emulated this action and subsequently gave rise to the Head Start Program. At the age of 8, Greta Thunberg began her advocacy for climate change awareness and began a student movement that she continues now at the age of 18. The ongoing senseless killings of unarmed Black and Brown persons in the United States resulted from creating the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Yes, despair permeates our society and at times we can feel run down and like we cannot move on. However, we are able to access light when we take small steps to push through the obstacles that permeate our thoughts and lives. Although we continue to wonder what's going on, we no longer must stay in that space. We can push up as much as we can and if we need a break, we can take one and still be okay.
Officialcharts.com. 2021. MARVIN GAYE | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company. [online] Available at: <http://www.officialcharts.com/artist/11567/marvin-gaye/> [Accessed 21 May 2021].