Song of the Day: Marvin Gaye “The Star Spangled Banner”
Native Washingtonian, Marvin Gaye sang this soul-touching rendition of our national anthem at a Los Angeles Laker’s game in 1983. Amidst much controversy, resistance and drama surrounding his unique approach to the song, and leading up to his actual performance, Gaye reinvented the song and elevated it to a whole new level. It is my opinion that through his voice, and approach to the song, that the anthem became more American and more worthy of inducing patriotic feelings than it ever had been before. Readers take note that a general inquiry into the composer and into the full original content of “The Star Spangled Banner,” will reveal an overtly racist individual, philosophy, and message. Through Marvin Gaye‘s passionate voice, the song that took almost 100 years from the time of it’s composition to become our national anthem, suddenly became inclusive of Black America and of the people of color who comprise this country. We are supposed to be a country of inclusiveness, invention, of inventiveness, and of reinvention.
This inclusiveness is what Marvin Gaye spoke to and did with this song–many love it and many do not. North American musical traditions–blues, jazz, rhythm ‘n blues, rock ‘n roll, hip-hop, and . . . have always been maintained and advanced through the innovations of artists who continually reinterpret and reinvigorate those traditions. Created by Black Americans, these traditions drew on and continue to draw from African, European, Native-American, and Global influences in order to be what they are. Their creation and continued recreations have served as great gifts to the world, gifts that keep on giving. One of these great gifts is that they give beautiful expression, voice, and power to the truth of our human experience. What is more American than that?
Marvin Pentz Gaye was born in Washington DC in April of 1939 and died on April of 1984, less than a year after his performance of “The Star Spangled Banner,”and one day before what would have been his 45th birthday. The son of a preacher, he showed musical interest from a young age which he pursued vehemently despite his father’s strictness and abuses. As a teenager, he was singing and playing piano in local doo-wop groups, making a name for himself with legendary figures such as Bo Diddley, and Harvey Fuqua. A move to Chicago and shortly thereafter to Detroit to quickly become an indispensable part of “The Motown Sound.”
Marvin Gaye became an international superstar while still in his early 20’s, singing on and co-writing a string of hit singles. He went on to tour the world and write and produce a series of albums that have helped to define popular music in general and have continually maintained his position as one of the most influential musical artists of our times. Marvin Gaye‘s personal issues have been widely publicized. Amidst his struggles, he was always a humanitarian, a great champion of human rights, of justice, unity & love among all people of the world, and of love and respect for mother earth. We sure could use that voice right now.