WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER:
REVISITING THE POETRY AND SONGS OF
MARVIN GAYE IN A TIME OF WAR
Today is the 1st of April - the date that Marvin Gaye's father shot him to death. Born Marvin Pentz Gay Jnr on the 2nd of April 1939 in Washington, DC, United States of America, Gaye was named after his father--an Apostolic Church minister.
Being raised in this 'spiritual' environment heavily influenced his early work and he vacillated between religious and secular topics in his songs. But by the 1970s Gaye became a political activist raising questions about all facets of political and governmental tyranny - taxes, death by executive fiats, and war.
It is quite interesting that as all fans of Marvin Gaye celebrate his life today, America is doing the same things he crooned about decades ago. Gaye was by no means a perfect man - he drank, he smoked, did drugs and caused his father some heartaches like any troubled and hence troubling offspring would cause. But did father have to shoot son? History seems to be indeed a collage of mad episodes and what is going on in Iraq today is one of those mad episodes.
In the first two stanzas of "What's Going On" (M. Gaye/A. Cleveland/R. Benson, 1971) Gaye captures the horror of war and warring whilst prescribing a solution at the same time:
Mother, mother, there's too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother, there's far too many of you dying
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today, hey
Father, father, we don't need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today, oh
American mothers, British Mothers, Iraqi mothers, many of them are crying today mourning their dead children and in just the past few days, the bodies of dead British soldiers were flown back to the UK, pictures of dead Iraqi civilians and soldiers are raw on television screen. The emphasis Gaye rams home here with "Brother, brother, brother" is designed to remind us all that wherever we come from, whatever we look like, we are members of the same human family and should not be killing one another but "...find a way / To bring some lovin' here today," and on the assumption that George Bush - referred to severally as the Most Powerful Man in the world is a symbolic father of the world, Gaye appeals to him not to escalate the problems of the world "You see, war is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate." Nobody doubts that Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator, or that he deals with opposition brutally. It is what dictators do and history is resplendent with such people - Hitler, Mussolini, Botha, Amin, Abacha, Doe and Pot, to mention just a few. In today's world, there has to be another way of changing regimes in countries without blowing the country away.
It is also extremely sad how the deaths of civilians in Iraq are dismissed without emotion that 'it is expected that in a war civilians will die', but the sorrow of the parents and the nations in Britain and America at the deaths of their soldiers is overwhelming.
In a way Stephen Spielberg's Minority Report is being played out in a most frightening way for real. It will be interesting to know where George Bush and Tony Blair got the powers from, to become pre-cogs--seeing the future and knowing that in ten years time or so, Saddam will arm terrorists to attack their countries, even though there is no evidence that until now Saddam has attacked any of their countries. Who are they to judge? Why was it important to go to war at the time they did? What is really going on? What is this war really about? What is going on?