DC at Night

DC at Night

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Happy Birthday to DC's Own Marvin Gaye

Singers, born after Gaye's death, pay their vocal tribute
As a Motown artist, Marvin Gaye is often associated with Detroit. But his real city, the place where he was born, went to high school, and sang in his 1st groups, is Washington. That's why it was extremely fitting that tonight, on what would have been his 74th birthday and at the U Street restaurant that bears his name, musicians and singers from all over DC engaged in a giant jam session to celebrate Gaye's life and music.

For several years now, Marvin's has been holding a birthday party for the legendary singer in its upstairs roof deck bar and lounge.

Last night, the jam session was led by Gordon "Guitar" Banks. Gaye's long time-band leader. Musicians slid on and off the stage, as did some of the area's hottest young R&B singers, but there was one constant - the long string of hits that Gaye wrote and performed for the Motown Label. There were versions of "Heard It Through the Grapevine", "What's Going On," "Mercy Mercy Me," "Sexual Healing" and many more.

The racially mixed, mostly older crowd grooved and swayed to the hits, many of them singing along to the words they first heard as teenagers.

The late great Marvin Gaye
Before leaving to become one of Motown biggest artists, Gaye began learning his craft in the church where his father was a minister and on the DC's streets. He was in the Class of 1956 at Cardozzo High School where he formed his first group, the DC Tones. However, he  dropped out to concentrate on his singing career with the DC groups like the Marquees. In 1960, he left DC for Detroit where he 1st spent 2 years as a drummer before breaking out on his own, 1st as a solo singer, then as part of duets with young female Motown artists, and finally as the Hall of Fame singer-songwriter who helped reshape Motown's sound during the turbulent late 1960s and 70s. When Gaye finally returned to DC in 1972 for a homecoming concert at Kennedy Center, he stopped in to sing “What’s Going On” for students at his former high school.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
Tragically, Gaye was shot to death by his father during an argument in 1984. All the proceeds from tonight's special performance went to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which is always accepting donations in Gaye's memory. If you are a fan of the late singer and would like to visit places linked to Gaye's DC, the Washington Post has published a list of those sites. Click here to access that article.

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