Marvin Gaye’s National Anthem Turns 30

Basketball, J. Tinsley — By on February 13, 2013 at 9:35 am

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Leave it to Marvin Gaye to turn the National Anthem into a full-fledged love song. On this day 30 years ago, Marvin Gaye delivered his rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” at the 1983 NBA All Star Game, a version that has since gone on to become one of the staple deliveries of its kind mentioned alongside arguably the best ever - Whitney Houston at the 1991 Super Bowl (Carl Lewis’ does not). Before praising Marvin, however, let’s put 1983 in perspective:

  • Kobe Bryant was four years old (he would turn five in August).
  • The top four candidates for MVP this season – LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul – weren’t even born yet.
  • Michael Jordan was a sophomore in college.
  • Half of the NBA was (probably) using cocaine, which in reality is a black eye the league will never truly disassociate from. Just ask the ’86 Houston Rockets how much booger sugar screwed them over. Or Michael Ray Richardson. Or David Thompson. Or Roy Tarpley.
  • The first CD player had been created the year before by Sony.
  • Time’s reigning Man of the Year wasn’t even a man. It was the computer. If only we knew how important that would become.
  • Michael Jackson’s Thriller was THE album.
  • Fast Times At Ridgemont High! E.T.!  (Released in 1982, but whatever)

You get the point. A lot has changed since February 13, 1983. Gaye turning our country’s most recognizable song into an R&B record, nevertheless, hasn’t. Marvin’s career is often memorialized for the hit records with Motown and post-Motown, his personal demons which had him flee the country, and his pops being the one to ultimately take his son’s life – on April Fool’s Day of all days and only hours before what would have been his 45th birthday.

The previous decade wasn’t kind to Marvin. His separation and later divorce to Anna Gordy was preceded by fights and infidelity, helping characterize ol’ Marvin as the premier troubled, yet grossly talented, artist of his generation. 1978’s Here, My Dear – despite low album sales at the time – remains an indelible piece of work for for reasons far beyond just music. Gaye provided the world a rare, in-depth look into the lover-take-all tug-of-war he struggled with over the concept of love, sex and ultimately throughout his marriage to Gordy.

And keep in mind, Gaye’s relationship with Janis Hunter helped inspire both his Let’s Get It On and I Want You albums. As passionate as the relationship was, their marriage ended largely due to drug abuse and, again, infidelities. Years later, with the growing burdens of the world increasing with each passing high, Marvin fled to Europe stemming from haunting financial issues and a growing addiction to coke. As with most artists with extreme character flaws, the chinks in his armor endeared him to millions.

J. Tinsley

@JustinTinsley is stuck halfway between a dream and reality. The plan? To make that dream a reality.

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