Vietnam Music Monday: “What’s Going On”

What’s Going On

Released in 1971 on the Motown subsidiary Tamla, “What’s Going On” was an immediate sensation, selling over a 100,000 copies in its first week. (Newseum collection)

Music played an important cultural role during the Vietnam War, representing the rebellious views of a young generation and the traditional values of an older, so-called “silent majority.” The Newseum selected 40 songs released between 1963 and 1973 that typified the music of the Vietnam era. The songs captured the emotions of people for and against the war and reflected the mood of an increasingly diverse country amid dramatic social and political change.

The 40 songs, part of the Newseum’s “Reporting Vietnam” exhibit, are a fraction of the hundreds of recordings that dealt with the war and civil disobedience. Each week, one song from the playlist will be featured. We encourage you to add your favorite songs of the era to the comment section!

What’s Going On (1971)

Recorded by Marvin Gaye
Motown originally released “What’s Going On” as a single. After the song’s instant success, the label’s popular singer and songwriter Marvin Gaye recorded a concept album of the same name, told from the point of view of a soldier returning from the war. Gaye said his brother’s letters from Vietnam inspired the now-classic song.


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

Purchase “What’s Going On” on Amazon or iTunes.

“Reporting Vietnam,” a new exhibit that marks the 50th anniversary of the start of America’s first televised war, explores the dramatic stories of how journalists brought news about the war to a divided nation.

CBS News

Contributing support for the “Reporting Vietnam” exhibit is provided by CBS Corporation, in memory of CBS News correspondent Bob Simon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *