Throwback Thursday: Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On?”

Throwback Thursday: Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On?”

Earlier this week, yet another unarmed black person became a hashtag after being killed by the police. And once again, we have video evidence.

Forty-six-year-old father of two, George Floyd, was in handcuffs and laying on his belly while Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pushed his knee into his neck for at least eight minutes — it’s unknown how long he had been doing that before a bystander started recording. It was clear that Floyd was dead within five minutes of the recording, but the officer — who was accompanied by three others — kept his knee in place.

Minneapolis has been up in smoke since the incident, and other cities have shown solidarity via protests of their own. All four officers at the scene have been fired, but no arrest has been made despite ample evidence in support of doing so.

I had another song planned for this week’s Throwback Thursday post, but following the death of George Floyd, I’m left asking one question: What’s going on?

Marvin Gaye asked the same question on the lead single and title track of his 11th studio album, What’s Going On. Written by Gaye, Al Cleveland and Renaldo Benson, the song was inspired by the social unrest at the time. It went on to peak at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

As we continue to live in the uncertainty of a global pandemic, and as George Floyd’s killer remains a free man, I have no choice but to ask the same.

“What’s Going On” has been remade four times, most recently in 2001, when Jermaine Dupri and Bono assembled an all-star cast of artists — including Destiny’s Child, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Nelly — for a remake aimed at raising money for AIDS treatment across the world. However, before the song was released, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which led to the proceeds of the song being split between AIDS treatment and September 11 relief.

It’s hard to remake a classic of this importance without ruining it, so I tip my heart to JD, Bono and all the artists — collectively called Artists Against AIDS Worldwide — involved. Listen to the original and the 2001 version below.

Marvin Gaye version

Artists Against AIDS Worldwide Version

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