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

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

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

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

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/985241/985248" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

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.

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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.

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