There have been a handful of breathtaking performances of the Star Spangled Banner. Some of the better versions were Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in 1969 and Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl in the early 90′s. By far the best version on record, in my opinion, is the late Marvin Gaye’s version from the 1983 NBA All-Star Game.
Then he started to singâ€¦ and he sang very slowly, drawing out every syllable of every word. Marvin took a full minute to sing the first line of the Anthem.
As Marvin was delivering that very first line, I felt like I was struck by lightning. I knew with certainty that I was witnessing something very specialâ€”a watershed cultural event that would be talked about many decades into the future.
Between the second and third lines of the Anthem, our entire section arose en masse and began clapping to the beat which we continued to do for the rest of the song. For what seemed like hours, we werenâ€™t in the Fabulous Forumâ€¦we were in the pews of Marvinâ€™s churchâ€¦a church none of us white suburbanites would likely ever visit in person. Through the most unlikely of musical vehicles, Marvin gave us the essence of Soul, personal and collective.
Did others see what I saw and feel what I felt? I knew others dug the Anthem and were groovinâ€™ to it. But did they participate in the groove or just passively partake? Were they tripping like me? Did they trip at all? I didnâ€™t know, couldnâ€™t know.
Marvin Gaye died tragically from a gunshot from his father almost a year after his performance at the NBA All-Star game. No one else in music has done or will ever do what Marvin did over the course of his three decades in show business.