Seeing What’s Going On listed as classic protest music, please note that the title song in particular has perhaps the most ignorant, trite excuse for a lyric of any major pop song.
Marvin Gaye was no war protester, or civil rights activist. He gave not a rat’s ass about politics. I don’t recall him marching in Selma. This is not a criticism; there are other things in life than social protest.
In 1970, however, he apparently felt the need to be “socially relevant” as the wind was blowing in those days. So, he got some words expressing a broad liberal position, and VOILA! He’s a protest singer.
Now, the tune is great, the production and performance are spot on. He was a singin’, songwritin’ SOB. You really can’t argue against the record. Marvin was a talented musician. I’ve spent a good many hours listening to Marvin, and I’m glad of it.
Father, father, we don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate
However, “only love can conquer hate” constitutes a really stupid, cheap SENTIMENT, just as trite and deleterious to your ability to deal effectively with reality as the mushy love songs Frank Zappa bitched about. It’s absolutely, objectively factually not true. Often the only thing that can conquer hate is getting a big gun and shooting the hater. Why, if we would just get together with Hussein and Bin Laden, hold hands and sing Kum-ba-frickin’-ya, it’d all be fine.
Then, consider such lyrics as “Who are they to judge us just because our hair is long?” Really. When did Marvin have long hair? He was just sucking up to the hippie establishment, trying to be cool.
Then consider the cheap supposedly “progressive” laundry list that gets pasted in for lyrics in the rest of the album. Particularly egregious to any proper sense of decency and geometry, “Let’s save the children. Let’s save all the children.” Oh, HELL no. I’m against that. I say we feed ‘em to the whales- then we EAT the whales!
Truly, it’s generally asking too much to make any kind of specific political arguments in a song. Music is about emotional expression, not logical argumentation. If you want to make a serious political statement, write a book or a newspaper column or something.
Smooth grooves, though.