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Marvin Gaye Celebration Planned at Historic Howard Theatre

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

It will also include a hand dance presentation, which is D.C.'s answer to the Harlem Shake. Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. council members will also be on hand to help mark the occasion. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Marvin Gaye Scholarship Fund for District high school seniors who intend to pursue careers in music and the Howard Theatre Restoration Community Committee.

"No one would have thought that, 29 years later, we'd be doing this on the same stage that Marvin actually performed on," said Saleem Hylton, 65, a vocalist with The Father's Children.

He remains one of the most celebrated superstars in the music industry.

"The man was so creative," said Washington, D.C., music producer Gordon Parks, who worked with Gaye on the singer's final studio album in 1982, "Midnight Love," which included the unforgettable hit, "Sexual Healing."

"To see this genius working ... his ego wouldn't let him do anything wrong. He knew what he was doing," said Parks, 75.

Gaye's musical talents developed in the District.

While his father led services at a local church and his mother worked as a domestic raising Gaye and his three siblings, the aspiring vocalist emulated such artists as Rudy West of the Five Keys, Clyde McPhatter of the Drifters, Ray Charles and Blues singer Little Willie John.

Eventually, Gaye formed the New Moonglows and landed at Motown Records in 1958. He went on to produce 56 top singles, that included duets with Tammi Terrell such as, "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing," and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," in the late 1960s.

Gaye left Motown for Columbia Records in 1982. A year later, he was selected to sing the Star Spangled Banner at the National Basketball Association's All-Star game and the performance remains legendary for the soulful and sensual way in which Gaye delivered it.

Still haunted by his past, Gaye traveled to Hawaii and Europe in an attempt to cope with his cocaine addiction, depression, and suicidal tendencies.

Gaye moved into his parents' Los Angeles, Calif., home in 1983, where the turbulent relationship with his father, ultimately ended his life.

"The world not only lost a brilliant talent, but Washington, D.C., lost a man who loved his community," said Butler-Truesdale, who lives in Southwest.

Even for those outside of the District, Gaye's legacy stands.

"The fact that they still celebrate Marvin and his music [in Washington, D.C.] is out of sight. It's fantastic," said Billy Wilson, president of the Motown Alumni Association in Detroit, Mich. "I applaud this and hope that it continues forever," said Wilson, 64.

Production also has started on a movie about the final years of Gaye's life, titled, "Sexual Healing." Jesse L. Martin has been cast as Gaye for the film and Martin's "Law & Order" co-star, S. Epatha Merkeson, has been selected to portray Gaye's mother.

"The Marvin Gaye Day Celebration is going to be special," Butler-Truesdale said. "Marvin was such a wonderful person who got caught up in a world that I don't think he really understood, and [it] certainly didn't understand him," she said. "After all of these years, Washington, D.C., really does miss him."

For information about the event, or to purchase tickets, go to www.howardtheatre.com.