Rock Hall’s Lauren Onkey to Speak at Kent State's 45th Annual May 4 Commemoration

Music News

Lauren Onkey, Ph.D., vice president of education and public programs for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, is well-versed in the history of rock ’n’ roll as well as the blues and R&B. She’s a great speaker too. At 7 p.m. on March 30 at the Kent Student Center Kiva, she’ll host a discussion the social impact that Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album  What’s Going On had on the Vietnam War as the Kent State University May 4 Visitors Center kicks off the 45th Annual May 4 Commemoration.

Onkey’s presentation, “What’s Going On: Marvin Gaye, Vietnam and the Rise of Political Soul,” will be the first event of the center’s month-long series commemorating the tragic events that occurred on May 4, 1970, on the Kent Campus. “Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album was written as a response to his brother’s experience in the Vietnam War and the declining conditions in U.S. cities,” Onkey says in a press release. “It was a breakthrough for Motown’s response to political and social issues, and inspired other soul artists to write about the impact of the war and its impact at home. He specifically referenced the Kent State shootings as a catalyst to the change in his writing at the time.”

Earlier this year, the Rock Hall did an “album spotlight” session on the record on Martin Luther King Day. “Sadly, the issues raised in the songs are eerily relevant to today, so it made for a very powerful discussion,” Onkey says. Free tickets for the presentation are available at

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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