So, yes. I’m inspired by the music of Marvin Gaye.

If you haven’t listened to “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” in a while, listen right now…

I was listening to this song in 2010, when I still did live in the inner city, when I got the idea to start this blog. I was struck then – as I am now – by how relevant this song still is — 40 years later. And under the weight of so many things wrong in my community and in my life:

money, we make it / fore we see it, you take it
bills pile up, sky high / send that boy of to die
hangs up, let downs, bad breaks, set backs / natural fact is I can’t pay my taxes
crime is increasing / trigger happy policing

it’s hard to not want to just throw up both my hands. I think this song, more than any other, captures my frustration in dealing with racism: to look at a situation – to be in the middle of it – and to be filled simultaneously with so much rage and powerlessness is, at times, overwhelming.

It makes me wanna holler. But I don’t know what to do with the line “throw up both my hands.” I’ve always imagined throwing up hands as giving up. And I can’t have that. I rage against the machine. I don’t just throw up my hands in frustration.

Listening to this song today, I wonder if I haven’t given it enough credit. We throw up our hands in frustration. But we also throw up our hands to fight. I don’t really think “Inner City Blues” is a song about fighting. It is mournful and frustrated. But it is also resistant. The coda at the end refers back to”What’s Going On.”

picket lines and picket signs
don’t punish me with brutality
war is not the answer
for only love can conquer hate

That’s a shameless re-ordering of the actual song

But I’ll take a little license. Because if “Inner City Blues” captures my frustration, then “What’ Going On” and its relentless call for understanding – its insistence that love can conquer hate – captures my hope.


Holler Back

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