Those familiar with Marvin Gaye knew him to be a man of many marvels. Wickedly talented, criminally charismatic and dynamic beyond belief when it came to his many, non-drug related interests. Those even more privy to the man’s palette, knew him to be something of a sports fan, even performing “The National Anthem” at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. But for Marvin, a Detroit flag-flyer through and through, The Lions would be an unsuspecting stop on the superstar’s journey, and right when he needed it most.
In 1970, Gaye was a shell of the man he once portrayed on stage, still reeling in disbelief and sorrow following the loss of recording partner and fellow Motown star Tammi Terrell, who passed after a short and tragic bout with brain cancer that claimed her life at the age 25. Needless to say, the loss of Terrell destroyed Marvin and his will to record, but a chance meeting with hall-of-famers Mel Farr and Lem Barney, both stars on The Lions at the time, would prove to pull the fractured pioneer out from his funk and welcome him back to the world.
A recent story on ESPN details how Barney, Farr and Gaye grew close over the years; relationships that culminated with Marvin inviting the two Lions players into the studio to assist with backing vocals on his resurgent, career-defining record What’s Going On and how the two eventually returned the favor by landing Marvin the Lions tryout he’d always dreamed of, clearing his head, even for a short period, of the many terrors plaguing the world at the time and setting him up for the seismic comeback that a man of those talents deserved, no matter how riddled by insecurity. Though it would in hindsight prove to be a temporary fix for an artist that remained tortured throughout the rest of his career, what Farr, Barney and The Lions organization did for that towering talent, is something the world is not yet ready to repay, and may never be. Hit the link below for the full story of how Marvin Gaye tried out for The Detroit Lions.