When Marvin Gaye addressed air pollution in his 1971 single “Mercy Mercy Me,” he grew to become one of many first R&B singers to ever handle environmental points in a music.

The singer had made a reputation for himself with romantic tunes like “It Takes Two,” “Ain’t No Mountain Excessive Sufficient” and “Ain’t Nothing Just like the Actual Factor.” However with the 1971 LP What’s Going On, he delved into a lot broader matters.

A part of this alteration may be attributed to a traumatic occasion. On March 16, 1970, simply months after collapsing in Gaye’s arms, Tammi Terrell, the singer’s longtime collaborator, died as the results of a mind tumor. Her demise despatched shock waves by the deeply religious Gaye, who refused to tour for a number of years afterward.

The singer initially retreated from the limelight to give attention to his personal introspection. When he emerged, he did so with a number of the deepest songs of his vaunted profession. What’s Going On noticed the Gaye tackling race relations, the Vietnam Warfare, drug abuse and, within the case of “Mercy Mercy Me,” environmental justice.

Hearken to Marvin Gaye’s ‘Mercy Mercy Me’

“I started to reevaluate my entire idea of what I wished my music to say,” Gaye defined to Rolling Stone. “I noticed that I needed to put my very own fantasies behind me if I wished to put in writing songs that might attain the souls of individuals. I wished them to check out what was taking place on the planet.”

World warming and air pollution, matters commonplace right this moment, weren’t being mentioned in 1971. Such points have been sometimes introduced up in rock or people songs – resembling Joni Mitchell’s “Massive Yellow Taxi” (1970) or the Seaside Boys “Don’t Go Close to the Water” – however have been extraordinarily uncommon in R&B music. Nonetheless, society was slowly changing into extra conscious of the harm it was doing to nature, as evidenced by the creation of Earth Day in 1970.

Gaye seemed on the world, particularly the prevalence of industrialization and company greed, and noticed a inhabitants that had misplaced its means. From the singer’s perspective, the search for the almighty greenback had torn followers away from Jesus. “His hope is a beacon of sunshine, and with him there is no such thing as a worry, no demise,” the singer is quoted as saying within the guide Divided Soul: The Lifetime of Marvin Homosexuale. “After we don’t observe his instance and switch to exploitation and greed, we destroy ourselves. That’s what ‘Mercy Mercy Me’ is about.”

The music’s lyrics talked of poison wind, radiation, dying animals and “oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas.” The phrases have been a far cry from the usual Motown tune. Label head Berry Gordy was against What’s Going On, deeming a political album “going too far.” He was compelled to eat his phrases when the titled observe hit No. 2 on the Billboard Scorching 100 chart, on its method to promoting greater than 2 million copies.

The LP’s second single, formally titled “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” was launched on June 10, 1971. It peaked at No. four on the chart, whereas additionally promoting greater than one million copies. The observe went on to develop into one of the crucial recognizable in Gaye’s catalog, later incomes induction into the Grammy Corridor of Fame. The music has since been coated by myriad artists, together with Robert Palmer, the Strokes and Boyz II Males.


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