“Tell me, where are we going? What’s the future showin’? Where are we headed? With all that’s going on where are we gettin’?” It’s easy to argue that these few lines in the chorus of Marvin Gaye’s Where Are We Going? still resonates through the hearts and minds of people to this day. While the struggles faced around the various counterculture movements of the 60s/70s were much different, the cultural relevance of this song and Gaye’s work seems to stick- possibly now more than ever.
Often, in times of political discourse and destress, it is quite easy, albeit crucial, to ask ourselves where the hell this is all going. Where are all of the decisions of myself and others leading humanity? While Gaye was known for more sexualized works like Let’s Get It On, this work separated him from his usual themes of sex and love- opening the eyes of many other Marvin Gaye fans and new listeners alike. Although, I would say his themes of love still shine through in this track. Gaye’s work often laid emphasis on the power of love and nonviolent social change. Though Gaye was not entirely known for social activism, this track and the album What’s Going On are an explosion of redefining music with political themes worthy of igniting social change. Themes of social injustice, police brutality, and environmental pressures are prevalent in the album, yet the soothing soulful voice of Marvin Gaye makes everything seem a bit more hopeful. And although Where Are We Going? begs a rhetorical question, it merely requests that we take a step back, observe the world, and see the bigger picture.
In the new digital age, musicians, artists, and even everyday people like you and I hold the power to say what we see, and ultimately make a change if need be. Change always happens slowly, but when it does occur, it is accompanied by awareness. Music, I would argue, has the power to bring awareness to any issue. Musicians craft their observations, thoughts, and emotions into a cohesive, interpretive art piece. As listeners, we view the final product and analyze it, often putting us in the shoes of the writer. If not this, we often relate over shared experiences at the very least. So, the way in which music connects us to one another and our experiences makes way for a higher understanding. It’s why we’ve been gifted projects like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, DAMN., or the Joey Bada$$ album All Amerikkkan Bada$$.