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Wednesday, February 10, 2010


 

Hey Obama, what's going on?


President Obama hosted another White House concert yesterday, a concert paying tribute to music that fueled the civil rights movement.

Which is a fine idea. Except one of the songs highlighted (in the news coverage, anyway) was Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", a song written in 1971, well after the heyday of the civil rights movement (Rosa Parks famous act 1955, Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, Voting Rights Act in 1965), but, more importantly, a song which had nothing to do with the civil rights struggle. It was a song written in opposition to the war in Vietnam (something a President fighting 2+ wars and conducting a major escalation of 1+ of them - the "+" being Pakistan - wouldn't want you to remember) and a song about poverty (a "war" the Democrats want you to forget about, the Democrats who form "Middle Class task forces" but from whose lips the word "poor" never escapes unless they're talking about Haiti). Read the lyrics or, better yet, read what Gaye himself said about it:

"In 1969 or 1970, I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say... I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world."
The antiwar message of the song was, in fact, so political that Wikipedia tells us that Berry Gordy at first refused to release the song.

There were indeed many songs which inspired and reflected the civil rights movement. "What's Going On" wasn't one of them.


Why stop here? There's more...

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