Nona Gaye Will Sing National Anthem At NBA All Star, After 21 Years Her Father Sang It












Pride and Joy : Marvin Gaye’s memorable national anthem still resonates 21 years after he sang it at L.A.’s NBA All-Star game

By David Davis, Special to The Times

The last time the NBA All-Star game was played in Los Angeles, Julius Erving led the East to a 132-123 victory over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and the rest of the West team.

Few remember that game. What stands out about that 1983 All-Star game is Marvin Gaye’s revolutionary version of the national anthem.

With a hand-mixed tape providing a grooving backbeat, Gaye powered and simmered through Francis Scott Key’s patriotic warhorse, infusing it with equal parts soul, funk and gospel. For nearly three minutes, the capacity crowd of 17,505 at the Forum clapped in rhythm as 24 basketball superstars swayed in place along the foul lines.

“It reminded me of Jimi Hendrix’s anthem at Woodstock,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Marvin changed the whole template, and that broadened people’s minds. It illuminated the concept, ‘We’re black and we’re Americans. We can have a different interpretation [of the anthem], and that’s OK.’ “

Next weekend, during the NBA’s All-Star Saturday night festivities at Staples Center, Gaye’s anthem will be reprised with a family twist. Nona Gaye will perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a duet with her late father, using digitally enhanced video and remastered audio of the original performance. Grammy Award-winning music producer Jimmy Jam will oversee the production.

“I’m nervous and exhilarated and honored at the same time,” Gaye said. “I can’t believe I’m going to sing with my daddy.”

Gaye, 29, compares the performance to Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable” duet with her late father, Nat “King” Cole. The difference, she said, is that “I will be performing live, in front of millions of people. It’s a little more frightening, but a little more exciting.”

She also admits that the experience will bring back bittersweet memories. Gaye was 8 when she watched her father perform the anthem, but it would be the last hurrah for a singer whose genius was surpassed only by his personal torment and drug abuse. The next year, he was shot and killed by his father.

“I believe a part of Father wanted to die, but I also believe that he did not want to kill himself,” Gaye said. “My father and my grandfather were two volatile men who had not liked each other their entire lives.”


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