20 Years Ago, Marvin Gaye Took 'National Anthem' To New Heights

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/985241/985248" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

It was 20 years ago, at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game, that Marvin Gaye stole the show with his singular rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

At the time, singing the anthem was for the most part a straightforward job — shoulders square, sing it straight like the hymn that it is. But for this game, Gaye took the anthem to a new level.

Lon Rosen remembers it well — he was the director of promotions for the Los Angeles Lakers, the team hosting the All-Star game that year. He says Gaye's one rehearsal was bumpy. By this point in his life, Gaye was battling a serious drug addiction. And on game day, the singer was running perilously late. But then the lights dimmed, and Gaye made history.

One year later, Marvin Gaye was dead, shot by his own father.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.