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How Marvin Gaye’s national anthem rendition in the 1983 NBA All-Star game changed history

Marvin Gaye pioneered singing the national anthem in own rendition during the 1983 NBA All-Star game. There had been a lot of greats and flops as well over the years.
Marvin Gaye signing the national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star game

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye was an American singer and songwriter whose hits include Let's Get It On, What’s Going On, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), Heard It Through The Grapevine, and Mercy, Mercy Me, among others. But he did not only change the landscape of the music industry; Gaye also greatly influenced the NBA after singing the national anthem.

1983 NBA All-Star Game

Marvin Gaye was invited to sing the national anthem before the NBA All-Star game in 1983, and he totally crushed it. According to Basketball Mecca, Marvin even had a shootaround, then changed into a suit and sang his own rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

His performance was so legendary that women allegedly threw their panties at him. What made it unforgettable was Gaye sang it in his own style, with just drums as accompanying sound. You can check his soulful version here:

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The Prince of Motown brought attention to the NBA and helped boost its image. Before his performance, national anthems were sung according to their original intent and purpose. Singing your own renditions of the Star Spangled Banner was unheard of, and Marvin Gaye paved the way for a more personal and artistic approach to singing the national anthem. Of course, the musician met some backlash at that time from purists, but nevertheless, Marvin started a trend and changed the sports and music industries forever.

Iconic national anthems in the NBA

To go off the standard version is a high-risk, high-reward move. For Gaye, it was a complete success. For some, it turned out to be too risky. 

Fergie's rendition of the national anthem from 2018 went viral but for all the wrong reasons. The camera panning to the reaction of players trying not to laugh didn't help either. The singer apologized for flubbing the Star Spangled Banner and admitted her take didn’t turn out as she intended.

So, the question remains, how much artistic freedom is allowed when it comes to singing the national anthem? Is artistry more important than singing the song in its intended way? If history's a teacher, you truly have to be one of the greatest to pull off your own version and not mess it up. 


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