Fifty years ago, Marvin Gaye released his 11th studio album that would become his masterpiece and an immediate commercial and critical success: “What’s Going On.”
The concept album, with most of its songs segueing into the next, serves as a narrative told from the perspective of a Vietnam veteran that reveals his utter shock upon his return home. He witnesses abject suffering, hatred and injustice experienced by veterans, Blacks, the poor and others – all Americans denied their constitutional rights.
But Gaye’s insightful lyrics also explore other themes that continue to remain relevant and unresolved five decades later including drug abuse, generational poverty and the ecology issue.
Fittingly, the song cycle which Gaye produced that showcased his soulful, passionate vocals will be performed in a tribute concert at Wolf Trap by an R&B vocalist often compared to the great Marvin Gaye: D.C.’s own Raheem DeVaughn.
The concert entitled “Marvin Used to Say,” will feature DeVaughn and friends for one night only, August 14 at The Filene Center (Wolf Trap) in Vienna, Va.
Presented by Tonesetters LLC, DMG and Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, the performance will also mark Wolf Trap’s ongoing celebration of its 50th anniversary season.
Fans can expect to hear Gaye’s classics from “What’s Going On” and “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” to “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).”
But DeVaughn says there’s no way he can leave out other Gaye standards like “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “Let’s Get It On.”
And to help him, he’ll be joined by some of his colleagues in the music industry: Daley, Eric Roberson, Yahzarah, Bee Boisseau, Attinshun Band, Micah Robinson and the Chuck Brown Band. He said the show represents a very special moment in his life.
“This began as an idea within my own team,” he said. “Fortunately, Wolf Trap liked it. I guess great minds do think alike. And it will celebrate the 50thanniversary of both Marvin Gaye’s iconic album as well as Wolf Trap’s five decades of bringing unforgettable performances to the stage. The planets definitely have aligned for this opportunity in my career.”
As mentioned earlier, DeVaughn, an award-winning singer and songwriter who’s been steadily climbing to the top after his debut album, “The Love Experience” (2005), made critics and fans take notice, remains one of the most talented and hardest working entertainers in the business.
He recently paid tribute to Gaye with the song “Marvin Used to Say” on his album “What a Time to Be In Love” (2020). But his newest album “Lovesick” (2021) also illustrates DeVaughn’s svelte style that would be legendary as part of Gaye’s vocal arsenal.
“If you listen to my catalog, there are several songs that reflect the heavy influence Marvin has had on my life, especially my harmonies,” DeVaughn said. “Being compared to him is humbling and an honor. It’s a beautiful thing. But I could never fill his shoes.”
DeVaughn, known in the greater Washington area for his philanthropic endeavors which he provides under the auspices of his foundation, said he gets just as much pleasure helping those in need as being on stage.
“I just want to make sure people are happy and able to better enjoy life,” he said. “But music has always been one of the most important parts of my life.”
DeVaughn has kept his nose to the grindstone, despite the challenges we have all experienced due to the pandemic. He said he’s still dabbling in acting after being featured in several movies and hopes to eventually get an opportunity to star in a Netflix or Hulu series that would provide him with a recurring role.
“I put out two albums in the last two months and they’re both doing quite well,” he said. “And I was one of the first artists to do a drive-in concert back in 2020. I also experimented with online concerts and other platforms before they became popular.”
“I’m one of those ‘stay ready’ kind of guys who’s always been good at adapting to challenges. Of course, COVID-19 has forced us to change in a lot of new and unprecedented ways because of the magnitude of the pandemic.”
“But I’m going to always find a way to connect my art with the world. I’m going to find a way to keep doing what I love to do,” he said.
For ticket information, go to www.Wolftrap.org.