Marvin Gaye – “Inner City Blues” (Make Me Wanna Holler)

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When I hear this song, I think of how empowering it must have been for Marvin Gaye to stand up and say, I am going to release this song, even though Berry Gordy wasn’t happy with him for releasing a protest song. During those days and earlier as many of us know, there where protest songs about the war, injustices, wages, etc., and still are to this day! Everyone has their own opinion about the things that are happening in this world and their communities. This song and the entire “What’s Going On” album brought great success to Marvin Gaye’s career!
“Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” is often shortened to “Inner City Blues” is a song by Marvin Gaye, released as the third and final single and the climactic song of his 1971 landmark album, “What’s Going On.” Written by Gaye and James Nyx, Jr., the song depicts and focuses on the ghettos and economic situations that plagued inner-city America, and the emotional effects these have on the inhabitants.

The song was recorded in a mellow funk style with Gaye playing the piano. Several of the talented Funk Brothers also contributed, including Eddie “Bongo” Brown, and bassist Bob Babbitt.

Composition and lyrics –

In 1998, co-writer James Nyx Jr. recalled,” Marvin had a good tune, sort of blues-like, but didn’t have any words for it. We started putting some stuff in there about how rough things were around town. We laughed about putting lyrics in about high taxes, ‘cause both of us owed a lot. talked about how the government would send guys to the moon, but not help folks in the ghetto. But we still didn’t have a name, or really a good idea of the song. Then, I was home reading the paper one morning, and saw a headline that said something about the ‘inner city’ of Detroit. And I said, ‘Damn, that’s it. ‘Inner City Blues.’

In its unedited version as it appears on the album, the final minute of the song (and of the LP) is a reprise to the theme of “What’s Going On”, the albums first song, then segues into a dark ending. This final minute was cut off the single version, as well as other sections of the song so the single edit runs under three minutes-this edit appears on subsequent reissues of the LP.

The song was recorded in the Hitsville USA studio and released in 1971 under the Tamla label and Soul, Funk genre. It peaked at #9 on the US Billboard Hot 100’s and #1 on the US Billboard Hot R&B singles where it stayed for two weeks. Although not certified by the RIAA at that time, all three releases from the What’s Going On album gained Gold status by selling over 1,000,000 copies in the United States.

A music video for the song was not released until 1994, when the Hughes brothers co-directed a video of the song for the reissue of What’s Going On. The video was shot in Harlem over the course of five days, featuring visuals of poverty and inner-city depression. The brothers also filmed firefighters putting out a fire, claiming to police to have been shooting a documentary.

“Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”

Song Lyrics

Dah, dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah

Rockets, moon shots
Spend it on the have nots
Money, we make it
Fore we see it you take it

Oh, make you want to holler
The way they do my life
Make me want to holler
The way they do my life

This ain’t livin’, This ain’t livin’
No, no baby, this ain’t livin’
No, no, no
Inflation no chance

To increase finance
Bills pile up sky high
Send that boy off to die
Make me want to holler

The way they do my life
Make me want to holler
The way they do my life

Dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah
Hang ups, let downs
Bad breaks, set backs

Natural fact is
I can’t pay my taxes
Oh, make me want to holler
And throw up both my hands

Yea, it makes me want to holler
And throw up both my hands
Crime is increasing
Trigger happy policing

Panic is spreading
God know where we’re heading
Oh, make me want to holler
They don’t understand

Dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah
Mother, mother

Everybody thinks we’re wrong
Who are they to judge us
Simply cause we wear our hair long

Writer/s: Marvin Gaye, James Nyx

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