Tag Archives: Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

Inner City Blues and Two More Hit Singles from the 1971 Album, What’s Going On, of Marvin Gaye (1939-1984).

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)—often abbreviated to Inner City Blues—is a song by Marvin Gaye (1939-1984) who released it as the third and final single from his 1971 album, What’s Going On.

The 32-year-old Gaye, who had his first hit song in 1962, had entered into a new and distinct stage of his musical career by the early 1970’s. Like Stevie Wonder, Gaye was one of the Motown artists to first gain complete control over his records. What’s Going On is one of Soul’s and Rhythm and Blues’ first “concept” albums and is considered by many to be not just one of the great albums of all time (though it is that) but the greatest.

The lyrics of Inner City Blues, written by Marvin Gaye and James Nyx and recorded in Detroit, Michigan, depict the conditions of America’s inner-city ghettos and the attitudes of those who live there. Relentlessly bleak economic conditions of these cities’ slums—”Crime is increasing, trigger happy policing, panic is spreading, God knows where we’re heading”— perpetrate denizens’ lives. In a prosperous period in U.S. history such is offset by endless war, spiraling inflation, and an economy geared for permanently and grossly augmenting “haves” and “have nots.”

In Marvin Gaye’s mellifluous tenor voice which had a tremendous three-octave range, the singer relates soulfully and passionately—the multi-track background vocals were also sung by Gaye—his conclusion about “The way they do my life” which makes him “wanna holler and throw up my hands.” The writers’ conclusion about inner-city ghetto conditions in the United States, a rich country that ceaselessly spends its money on “rockets, moon shots,” is that insofar as the ghetto resident: “This ain’t livin’, this ain’t livin’, No, no baby, this ain’t livin’.”

In a career that exemplified the maturation of romantic black pop of the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s—Gaye had his first hit at 23 years old and died one day before his 45th birthday after he was shot to death by his father following a violent verbal altercation in 1984— his music developed into a palatably popular artistic form that openly explored contemporary society and all manner of politics, including sexual.

In Inner City Blues the talented singer relates his harrowing subject matter and that which it implies by way of a sophisticated and mellow funk style. Detroit-based session musicians, particularly Eddie “Bongo” Brown and Bob Babbitt on bass, who were part of The Funk Brothers that performed on most Motown recordings of the period—added to the record’s sound.

What’s Going On produced three hit singles. All top ten chart bestsellers addressed diverse issues affecting a complicated time—including the war in Vietnam (What’s Going On, #2, 1971), the global biophysical environment (Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), #4, 1971) and civil rights and justice (Inner City Blues (Makes Me Want to Holler), #9, 1971).

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
Music and Lyrics: Marvin Gaye and James Nyx

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

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

The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
Hang ups, let downs
Bad breaks, set backs

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

Yeah, it makes me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands
Crime is increasing
Trigger happy policing

Panic is spreading
God knows where we’re heading
Oh, make me wanna holler
They don’t understand

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