listening · music · teaching

mercy mercy me

“What’s Going On?”

That was an apt question in 1971 when Marvin Gaye released his pivotal album What’s Going On. It’s an apt question now. I am happy to share the video above tomorrow with my students  as we turn to the Vietnam War and Counterculture movement. One of them told me today they’d fix our world. Hope he’s right.


I remember the first time I heard “What’s Going On” and “What’s Happening Brother,” two songs from Gaye’s What’s Going On album. I mean, really heard them. I was a freshman at the University of Miami. I had received a box of cassettes from Columbia House (this was the order where you got 10 or so for $1). I remember standing in my dorm beside my boom box, listening to the entire Side A of “What’s Going On” and my eyes teared up.

This was 1985. I was too young to understand the Vietnam War in the early seventies. By 1985, the lyrics to these songs helped me figure out a bit more about that war and the many issues related to it.

Teaching this stuff is helping me learn even more.

I learn with my students.

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