Originally created 04/01/04

Marvin Gaye's impact, smooth voice live on



David Heath was a preteen when he attended his first major concert.

Kool & The Gang and the Ohio Players opened for Marvin Gaye, said Mr. Heath, who now performs at D. Timm's Jazz Cafe at 302 Sixth St.

"Marvin was a love-crooner who paved the way for Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross," said Mr. Heath, who reflected on the life and death of Mr. Gaye, who would have turned 65 on Friday.

Twenty years ago today, Mr. Gaye was shot and killed on a Sunday morning by his father after the two argued at his father's Washington, D.C., home.

Robert "Flash" Gordon, the owner of Pyramid Records, helped promote the 1974 concert Mr. Heath attended at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

"I keep Marvin's music in stock," said Mr. Gordon, a former Southeast promotions manager for Mercury Records. "The music is fresh because of his unique way of presenting a song."

Augusta-area singers Bobby Bush, Tony Howard and Eric Mayweather all perform renditions of Mr. Gaye's hits at their gigs.

"He had a certain cool that fit only him. His style, message, he had the total package," said Mr. Bush, of PlayBack.

Mr. Howard, a longtime local performer, said the singer deserved more.

"He's like an Elvis, but never got the credit. His music transcends boundaries like age and color," Mr. Howard said.

Mr. Mayweather describes the music as "spiritually inspirational."

"The lyrics are meaningful, and he was a great showman," said Mr. Mayweather, who fronts nouveau soul band Brown Sugar.

Born Marvin Pentz Jr., Mr. Gaye was the son of a Pentecostal minister, which provided the spiritual base that anchored the youth's musical being.

After a late 1950s doo-wop stint with Harvey Fuqua's Moonglows, Mr. Gaye was a session drummer on early Motown hits before signing with Berry Gordy's then-fledgling label.

Motown's attempt to create a balladeer crooner, a la Johnny Mathis, failed, and by 1962, Stubborn Kind of Fellow was the first of many hits that earned Mr. Gaye the moniker "Prince of Motown."

It was the landmark 1971 album What's Going On that fully displayed Mr. Gaye's creative genius. Later hits, such as Distant Lover, Let's Get It On and the 1983 Grammy winner Sexual Healing keep people buying Marvin Gaye's music, Mr. Gordon said.

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com