Marvin Gaye and the Star Spangled Banner

Nike is running a TV ad during the Olympic broadcasts. I think the ad is for the U.S. basketball team, but the background is part of Marvin Gaye’s version of the Star Spangled Banner, with quick cuts of him among the basketball highlights.

Gaye’s version of the national anthem was from the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. He already had a pretty serious drug problem at the time and was 30 minutes late to the game, forcing the festivities to wait. He then sang an unusually soulful rendition of the tune with a drum machine backbeat that was definitely unlike anything the TV execs had expected.

According to 1980s pop star Thomas Dolby, Stevie Wonder told him it was the reason, despite Gaye’s popularity at the time (“Sexual Healing” was on the charts), he was never on TV again until he was dead, which was about a year later.

Some folks (maybe those with lead pipes in their houses and lead paint on their toothbrushes) still see his rendition as some sort of insult. Come on people. It’s not like he pulled a Carl Lewis or Roseanne.

Nonetheless, I think it’s beautiful. And I’m glad, even if it’s thanks to Nike, I get to hear it a little more often.

For those that haven’t seen it, here it is:

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