Dear White Boomer Singers at the Haterfield Farmer's Market:
What in the name of red-eyed fruit flies are you thinking, daring to cover "What's Goin On?" For the love of all that's holy! Just because you're Boomers with guitars (acoustic), that sure doesn't make you worthy to sing Marvin Gaye! Sweet Jesus in the manger. Here I am, on my first maskless outing since March 13, 2020, and I have to hear some gray-bearded white guy mangle "What's Goin On?" What a buzz kill.
Music is an infrequent topic here at "The Gods Are Bored." I'm not a rock snob. But I do know a bit about music, having written for an American Music reference book for five years. Point of fact, one of the entries I did was on Marvin Gaye.
You can search far and wide through the canon of mid-century American music and not find a more soulful song than "What's Goin On." Or its sister "Mercy Mercy Me." Marvin Gaye went way out on a limb putting together that album. The people at Motown were against it, but he persisted. And thank all the bored Gods he did, because his velvety voice questioning war and brutality and pleading for brotherhood was unparalleled. That is some deeply moving music, there.
I remember when that song first came on the radio. It turned my head. I was always a Motown fan, but this was different. And what made it different in a groundbreaking way was the actual presentation of the song. Marvin owned that music. His voice was like a warm pool he had built himself, and he was swimming around in it.
Maybe he should have taken those songs to the grave with him.
The effrontery of two saggy white people covering that at a farmer's market in a damn near segregated suburb! You cannot sing that well, chumps. Even if you could sing, you couldn't sing that. You can't sing "What's Goin On." Stop. Stop. Stop.
One Saturday morning before the pandemic, I found myself at the Berlin Flea Market, which is quite a different vibe from Haterfield. That market had hired a similarly craggy Boomer dude to provide some music. He sat down on a stool and gave up some high quality Bob Seeger. It was sublime. Then he did a little Gordon Lightfoot, a little Chicago. The man was on safe turf. He was where he should be. No Motown! Dude had some respect.
White people singing at farmer's markets should stick to any damn country song about losing your girl, your dog, your pickup, and your gun. No white person has any business covering Marvin Gaye. Don't do it again, unless and until you wake up some morning and you actually are Marvin Gaye.
Brother brother brother.