Marvin Gaye What's Going On Analysis

Decent Essays

In 1971, Marvin Gaye, a renowned Motown artist, published a concept album that would become a huge hit for both critics and casual listeners throughout the US. Written towards the end of the Vietnam War, What’s Going On would touch on subjects including war protests, unification of the American people, and the poor treatment of veterans. Gaye’s brother served in Vietnam, and much of this album shows the brother’s thoughts and feelings when he returns. Throughout his album, Marvin Gaye uses his own experiences to give us a look at why he and many others had a dissatisfaction with society and the government during the Vietnam War era in the United States. The Album starts off with a song of the same name, “What’s Going On”, the most popular …show more content…

Upon returning home he is expecting a warm welcome, but all he sees is problems in his society. The first problem addressed is that of veterans being shunned after coming home. Either because they didn’t agree with what the soldiers fought for or because they were frustrated from the defeat, people would treat veterans badly. Many veterans would try to mask the fact they served, or otherwise would be harassed by the anti-war civilians. Gaye’s brother experienced the same and could not “find no work, can’t find no job” because the employers were discriminatory. The whole society changed after the war, as expected from a drastic event like this, but especially because this war was for a cause that most did not back. People were constantly fighting, and after years in a war, soldiers coming back would notice the difference. “I Just don’t understand what’s going on across this land” is a reflection on this, as Gaye’s brother doesn’t understand why society is changed. Lastly in this song, Gaye doubts the media and their interpretation of the war, saying “Are things really getting better like the newspaper said?” Originally, media would cover the story portraying the United States as the good guys facing the bad guys, but that changed after the Tet Offensive in 1968. After the war, media would act as if things were getting better to give the population what they wanted to hear. Both “What’s Going On” and “What’s

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