*Harvey Fuqua – the man who is credited for starting and developing Marvin Gaye’s professional career – passed away on July 6, 2010. A memorial service was held in Culver City, California (a suburb of Los Angeles) on Monday August 2nd.
The private service took place at the Agape International Spiritual Center, officiated by Dr. Michael Beckwith who declared: “The question is not ‘what is the meaning of life’, but rather how do we give our life meaning? That was Mr. Fuqua’s expression of God!”
It was a celebration indeed as many remaining Motown veterans turned out to salute one of their own: Motown founder Berry Gordy (and others from the Gordy family including Robert, Berry IV, Raynoma [Singleton], Iris, Karla [Bristol], and Fuller); Smokey Robinson; Mary Wilson; Brenda Holloway; Brian and Eddie Holland; Claudette Robinson; Janie Bradford; Cornelius Grant, and many from the creative and executive teams.
Also in attendance were actor Ben Vereen, singer Brenda Lee Eager, entertainment attorney Larkin Arnold, Temptations’ manager Shelley Berger, and Ron Brewington of the Motown Alumni Association who assisted with planning and organizing the event.
There were many wonderful highlights like outstanding performances by the S.T.A.R.S. (Souls Taking Action Reaching Souls) – an ensemble of outstanding singers of the non-profit organization founded by Fuqua and his wife Carolyne in 1995. Two of the singers worth mention were Nadine Risha, and Natalie Dawn Oliver-Atherton who during separate segments brought the audience to its feet! Other moving moments were the songs “Gone Too Soon” by Kelly Patterson, and “How Do I Say Goodbye” by Alfred “Dr. Scratch” Borders.
Then we heard that unmistakable voice of former Temptations member Louis Price as he made a surprise entrance from the back of the auditorium, singing acappella, the Lou Rawls tune called “Old Folks”. It was a rousing performance as he personalized the song inserting the name “Harvey” in a very amusing way. He told interesting stories about his relationship with Fuqua, and then went into a version of “Touch the Hem of His Garment” with call and response from the audience.
A very colorful reading of Fuqua’s biography was done by his son Kevin Parks. A proclamation from the City of Los Angeles was read by Fuqua’s daughter Trina Farris. Lance Freed, son of Alan Freed, commented on how his famous promoter dad dared to air what was considered “race music” back in the 1950’s, and started Fuqua and his group (who became The Moonglows with their first hit, “Sincerely”) on a musical journey that landed them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This was all accented with an audio/visual collage, shown on screen, of Fuqua’s life and career expanding from his youth up until near the time he transitioned. It included all the acts he had brought to Motown, and a recording that he made with Etta James called “If I Can’t Have You”. Through it all, there were no tears of sadness, but of laughter, joy, gratitude, and appreciation for Fuqua’s contribution to the world.
Smokey Robinson did a spontaneous mimic of the doo-wop vocal patterns that he learned listening to The Moonglows as a youngster, and the audience went wild! He shared some very interesting, heartfelt, and hilarious moments of his life and times with Fuqua in and out of the studio. He said, “Harvey was my man…we went all over the world together.” Then, acknowledging Patterson’s song “Gone Too Soon”, he said, “no matter how long you have your friends, one day they are gone too soon.” He ended by singing an excerpt of “Really Gonna Miss You” – the song he sang on the soundtrack of the Temptations’ movie.
Berry Gordy did a comical off-key, offshoot of The Moonglows hit “The Ten Commandments of Love” (he admittedly is not a true singer by his own Motown standards). So when he sang “1” and described some memorable/heartfelt/hilarious trait of Fuqua, the audience roared, and they roared all the way through “9”. When he got to “10”, Gordy spoke it rather than sang it, and Smokey shouted from the front row, “No, you’ve got to sing it!”…as the audience chimed in agreement. So Gordy obliged, and you would have thought it was a rehearsed vaudeville skit…the audience loved it!
One of the closing songs performed by S.T.A.R.S. was “Someday We’ll Be Together”. After the benediction, and in between the repast, there was such a warm fellowship of hugs and kisses, just like any typical family, but this was the Motown family!
Fuqua’s wife Carolyne commented, “This really exceeded my expectations…I’m just so happy that everybody showed up and contributed. It was just a warm heartfelt family affair!”
Larry Buford www.EditorialByLarry.com