What's Really Going On (Strange Fruit)
Dwayne Wiggins
Eyes Never Lie, 2000
 Written by Dwane Wiggins, Maurice Pearl & Lewis Allan
Contains interpolations from "Strange Fruit", written by Lewis Allan

Dwayne Wiggins co-founded the Oakland, California R & B Group, Tony Toni Tone in 1986. The title for this song is adapted from the title of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, a musical plea for equality, justice, and peace. In September 2001 the organization Artists Against AIDS Worldwide assembled a group of artists to record a new version of What's Going On to raise awareness and funds to help fight the spread of AIDS in Africa.

Wiggins wrote this song in response to an encounter he had with a police officer in Oakland, California in 1999. Wiggins commented in 2000, "I was chosen to be picked on because of the color of my skin, the style of my car, the style of my hair, whatever...Officers need to regroup and remember to respect people as human beings...He felt like he had the power to put his hands on a person. It's not so much about me. It's about the people that don't have a voice..."

The other source of inspiration for this song is the powerful anti-lynching protest song, Strange Fruit which was popularized by Billie Holiday. The song was written by a Bronx school teacher, Abel Meeropol (Lewis Allan) after viewing a photograph of a lynching. It first appeared as a poem, Bitter Fruit in a 1937 issue of New York Teacher. Meeropol once explained, "I wrote Strange Fruit because I hate lynching, and I hate injustice, and I hate the people who perpetuate it."

In his lyrics, Wiggins sets out to draw parallels between African American's contemporary experiences of discrimination and the enduring pain and legacy of racism and lynching.  He stated in 2000, ''When it came to a hook, when it came to writing things down, I just thought, This thing is like Strange Fruit ... They're not hanging us by ropes but they're cutting off everything else around us.''

The 1984 song, Pride ( In The Name of Love ) by U2 pays tribute to slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. Lead singer Bono explains, "I originally wrote Pride about Ronald Reagan and the ambivalent attitude in America.  It was originally meant as the sort of pride that won't back down, that wants to build nuclear arsenals.  But that wasn't working.  I remember a wise old man who said to me, don't try to fight darkness with light, just make the light shine brighter.  I was giving Reagan too much importance then I thought Martin Luther King, there's a man.  We build the positive rather than fighting with the finger."

The 1986 song, The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby deals with the issue of racism and intolerance. The 1998 song Changes by 2Pac also deals with societal problems and racism while sampling the melody and chorus from The Way It Is. John Hornsby who has co-written other songs explained in the Way It Is Songbook, "The song is mainly about compassion, about understanding racial and social types, and beliefs and practices that are different from your own. It's about a status quo that's so complacent in its narrow-mindedness and bigotry that it seems it'll never change. That's why the line Ah, but don't you believe them is so important. One writer interestingly described the song as being about 'the narrow-minded underside of Southern hospitality'. But it's a universal problem, not just a Southern one."

U2’s 1991 song, One is listed at #36 in Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. This somewhat ambiguous song has been subject to numerous interpretations. On one level the song is about disharmony and emotional pain in a strained relationship... Did I disappoint you Or leave a bad taste in your mouth You act like you never had love And you want me to go without Well it's too late tonight To drag the past out into the light We're one but we're not the same We get to carry each other, carry each other One...Surprisingly, this song has been a popular choice for weddings, prompting this statement from Edge, “Still, it blows me away when it's played at weddings.  I wouldn't have played it at any wedding of mine.  But I suppose it's because, despite all the other stuff in there, the power of 'we get to carry each other' overwhelms everything.” This song also has been interpreted to be about a strained relationship between a father and his gay son. Regardless, the songs central theme or message is about the moral imperative of acceptance, respect, tolerance and unity among people and between nations in the world. Bono explains, “It is a song about coming together, but it's not the old hippie idea of ‘Let's all live together.’  It is, in fact, the opposite.  It's saying, ‘We are one, but we're not the same.’  It's not saying we even want to get along, but that we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive.  It's a reminder that we have no choice.”


Murphy, Eileen. "An Ever-Ripening Fruit", Metro Times Detroit  4/19/00.

Gill, John, "Dwayne Wiggins To Protest Racial Profiling" MTV.com. - News, 4.27.2000.

Hubbard, Lee "Dwayne Wiggins Sings At Rally Protesting Police Brutality". VH1.com: NewsApril 28, 2000.

Margolick, David "Strange Fruit: A Song That Reverberates in the American Soul". New York Times (c)2001.

Margolick, David "Strange Fruit". Vanity Fair (c)September 1998.

Lyric Analysis - "The Way It Is / Way It Is Songbook" Bruuuce.com

Martin, Gavin "Call U2 Unforgettable". New Musical Express October 27, 1984

'I Will Follow' To 'One'" by Robert Hilburn, Los Angeles Times, September 12, 1993

"The 1001 Best Songs Ever" Special Edition, Q Magazine, November 2003

Dwayne Wiggins Music and Lyric Resources:

VH1.com: Dwayne Wiggins

Tony Toni Tone on LAUNCH

Dwayne Wiggins on LAUNCH

Bruce Hornsby


Threesunrises.net – U2 Song Meanings

Referenced and Related Works:

Strange Fruit

Executive Order 9066

Japanese Internment Camps

Gerald R. Ford's Proclamation

Racial Profiling: President Bush Address to Congress

Racial Profiling: Attorney General Ashcroft Remarks

Countee Cullen's "The Incident"

Lucille Clifton's "Jasper, Texas, 1998"

Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise"

Langston Hughes' "I Dream A World"

Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream"

Civil Rights Act of 1964

2Pac's "Changes"

Dream Deferred / Do The Right Thing / Fight The Power / Children's Rhymes

Bono’s “One”

Huey P. Newton's "In Defense of Self-Defense"

Frederick Douglass's Independence Day Speech

“The Way It Is” Constructed Response Activity


“Strange Fruit” Constructed Response Activity


1921Tulsa Lynching / “The Heart of the Matter” Essay Writing Activity


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. / “One” Essay Writing Activity


Independent Lens - "Strange Fruit"  ( external page )

Love Music Hate Racism ( external page )

Strangefruit.org ( external page )

Mary J. Blige w/Bono - “One” ( external page )

YouTube - “Pride ( In the Name of Love ) ( external page )

YouTube - “Changes” ( external page )

YouTube – “What’s Going On” ( external page )

NAACP ( external page )

American Civil Liberties Union ( external page )

Stop Racism ( external page )



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