30 years ago today Marvin Gaye was shot to death by his crazy-ass father, a day shy of his 45th birthday. I was one of probably millions of people who thought the rumor of his death was a lame, perverse April Fool’s Day joke, but rumor soon hardened into cold-blooded fact. Marvin was dead. He was one of the most soulful singers ever, his singles integral to the early Motown sound and released one of the definitive albums of the early ’70s (What’s Going On, 1971). He also somehow managed to make the national anthem sexy. And please note that his genius was in undersinging the anthem. There’s no histrionics or extended vocalistics. He lays back against the skeletal beat, totally minimalist, and seduces us with brilliant, sexy vocal control, really only letting loose at “rockets red glare” and “land of the free.” Take us to church, Marvin, and here’s hoping you’re resting in peace.
Marvin Gaye – The Star-Spangled Banner
NBA All-Star Game
Fabulous Forum, Inglewood, CA
February 13, 1983