One Moment in Time: Marvin Gaye Gets Loose With the National Anthem (1983)
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 21, 2008
How sweet it is
What a difference a drum machine makes. If you’ve been keeping even the loosest of tabs on our 29th Olympics (and if you haven’t, lemme sum up: Usain Bolt = Fast, Michael Phelps = Aqueous, Doubles Table-Tennis = Ridiculous), you’ve no doubt seen the commercials featuring team USA training, practicing, and generally being communal to the tune and split visuals of a particularly soulful individual’s rendering of “The Star Spangled Banner.” That man is of course Marvin Gaye, and the song is from the 1983 NBA All-Star Game, one of his last televised appearances. And evidently, it’s having the same effect on our Redeem Team that Whitney Houston’s hit rendition had on the 1990 New York Giants, since Team USA is so far undefeated and a mere two games away from claiming the Gold they somehow failed to score the last couple times out.
No surprise there, really. I’m not sure if it’s the best version of the Star Spangled Banner I’ve ever heard, but it’s certainly one that makes me wonder why more musicians aren’t musically adventurous like this when it comes to performing our nation’s bland and somewhat badly dated theme song (when was the last time you watched ramparts, much less gallantly streaming ones?). The minimal and largely unobtrusive drum track the song is built on isn’t particularly interesting in itself, but it takes enough of the pressure off of the vocal (usually expected to make up the entire song) that Gaye can afford to stretch out a little bit. And really, there’s nothing more smooth and sweet-sounding than Gaye getting loose, even with a song as tired as our National Anthem. It’s enough that I’m always hoping for the full-length version of the commercial when it airs:
Two games to go, fellers. Don’t make us resort to “Sexual Healing.”