"What's Going On" is a song written by Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Al Cleveland, and Marvin Gaye. It was the title track of Gaye's groundbreaking 1971 Motown album What's Going On, and it became a crossover hit single that reached #2 on the pop charts and #1 on the R&B charts. A meditation on the troubles and problems of the world, the song proved a timely and relatable release, and it marked Gaye's departure from the pop stylings of 1960s-era Motown towards more personal material. The song topped a Metro Times list of the 100 Greatest Detroit Songs Of All Time, and in 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it the fourth greatest song of all time.
The song has been covered by multiple artists, notably Cyndi Lauper, whose version reached #12 on the pop singles charts in 1987.
In 1970, Renaldo "Obie" Benson was a member of Motown's popular male vocal group The Four Tops. While on the road in San Francisco, Benson saw several young anti-war protesters being arrested and pushed over by police. Benson said he was deeply disturbed by the polices' actions and when he returned home, began writing a song initially about police brutality and "picket lines, picket signs". Benson presented the idea to...