Marvin Gaye Celebration Planned at Historic Howard Theatre

Stacy M. Brown | 3/27/2013, 11:39 a.m.

D.C. Celebrates Its Own Musical Legend

"Mother, mother

There's too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother,

There's far too many of you dying

You know we've got to find a way

To bring some lovin' here today..." -What's Going On

Marvin Gaye

April 2, 1939 - April 1, 1984

A favorite son of Washington, D.C., and a national treasure, Marvin Gaye's music resonates with young people today as much as it does with those plugged in for decades.

Silky smooth, Gaye married three times and didn't shy away from affairs of the heart.

A troubled soul, the hurt from the abuse at the hand of his father and the torment of drug addiction and depression are found in songs like, "Trouble Man," "Mercy Mercy Me," and, "Inner City Blues."

Gaye's iconic status is a result of those timeless hits and others like, "What's Going On," "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," and, "Sexual Healing."

A tall and skinny youth, Gaye's path to superstardom started on the soprano row in music class at Cardozo Senior High School in Northwest.

"We were both in the 10th grade and, of course, he was just another student at that time," said classmate Sandra Butler-Truesdale. "I wondered why he was sitting on the same row in music class as the girls. But, when we started to practice, he had this real high voice and I found out that he was a [male] soprano. As I listened to him, I realized that his voice was even higher than mine," said Butler-Truesdale, 73.

As one of Motown Records biggest stars, Gaye penned, produced, and played most of the instruments on all of his songs. His style included both a rough edge and a sweetness that moved both men and women.

Born in 1939, the soul legend was gunned down by his own father, Marvin Gay, Sr., one day before his 45th birthday, on April 1, 1984.

A D.C. legend, a city park in Northeast carries his name and Hennessy, the cognac maker, unveiled life-sized billboards featuring his picture from the seminal, "What's Going On," album, that debuted in 1971, 35 years later.

Today, Gaye would have been 74.

"If you listen to, 'What's Going On,' it's even more profound than it was when he wrote it. At the time he was making the album, Marvin told me that it was being written by God and he was just an instrument," Motown legend Smokey Robinson, 73, said. "God was writing the album because God wanted that message out, Marvin told me. And, I can buy that, because the message remains so significant today. I think it's the greatest album ever."

Music from that album and others are expected to be featured at an April 3 Marvin Gaye Day Celebration at the historic Howard Theatre in Northwest, said Butler-Truesdale, one of the event's organizers. She has teamed with the African American Music Association for nearly three decades to celebrate Gaye's life and legacy.

Tickets for the 29th annual event are $25 and the 8 p.m., show will include performances by The Father's Children, a D.C. group that was once signed by Motown Records.