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Marvin Gaye celebrated with a ‘forever stamp’

By J.A. Salaam | Last updated: Apr 17, 2019 - 2:54:50 PM

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Lem Barney unveiling Marvin Gaye ‘forever stamp’ with Russ Thouvenot; Acting U.S. Post Master of St. Louis Gateway District. Photos: J. A. Salaam
ST. LOUIS—Known as the “Prince of Soul”, the legendary musical icon Marvin P. Gaye was recently honored with a forever stamp on his would be 80th birthday.  The United States Postal Service held the unveiling in Los Angeles, California at the Greek Theatre on April 2. 

The stamp is part of the postal services Music Icons series. Its design features a painted portrait of Gaye by renowned artist Kadir Nelson and designed by art director Derry Noyes. The stamp pane is designed to resemble a vintage 45 rpm record sleeve. One side of the pane includes 16 stamps, with a brief text about Gaye’s music career, and the image of a sliver of a record peeking out the top of the sleeve. 

The celebration was experienced in different cities across America and a special unveiling was held in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 3 at the Grandel Theatre. The USPS accepted a request from Margie Hollins, of A Diverse Group of Artist and Dance for Cassandra, Inc. Her request was that the United States Postal Service would consider the unveiling of the Marvin Gaye stamp in another city outside of L.A. “I felt that since Marvin Gaye’s music touched every one of us in a special way that he should have been celebrated in every city and not just Los Angeles,” she said. Mr. Gaye was shot and killed April 1, 1984 by his father following a dispute. 

“I reached out to the post office and made the request. They were hesitant at first but after I expressed the significance and role St. Louis has played in the music world and how timely and relevant Marvin Gaye’s music and “What’s Going On” record still has today in relationship to St. Louis—they agreed and we were able to honor him as well,” said Ms. Hollins

The event in St. Louis proved to be a great success. The program began with a flag presentation with the Cleveland Junior Naval Academy marching to the drum cadence and voice of Marvin Gaye singing his rendition of the National Anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star game. There were memorable classic hit songs by Marvin Gaye sung by several artists and a musical string tribute to the late artist conducted by Maestro Dr. Leon Burke III, of University City and Assistant Conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Special guest and friend of Mr. Gaye, Lem Barney, former NFL player and Hall of Famer, who sung back up on the “What’s Going On” album also participated. Mr. Barney shared some of his cherished memories about Mr. Gaye. 

Margie Hollins (left) and Kim Caldwell-Harvey at St. Louis presentation for the unveiling a postage stamp honoring music legend Marvin Gaye.
“I remember when “Gator” (Marvin Gaye) wanted to play football with us—Mel Farr and me with the Detroit Lions. I took him to the coach so he could try out as a wide receiver, he was 6’3, 225 pounds. The coach worked him for about an hour and a half. And after that he told him no, and thanked him for trying,” shared Mr. Barney. “Gator, really wanted to play, but he was better at singing,” said Mr. Barney as the audience laughed. The special commemorative program booklet highlighted original photos from the “What’s Going On” album, donated for use by Motown photographer Mr. Jim Hendin

There were also two proclamations presented. The Missouri officials declared April 3 “Marvin Gaye Day” in the state and Alderwoman Marleen Davis of the 19th Ward in St. Louis sent one to acknowledge the great contributions Marvin Gaye gave through his music.