Brian Owens

Brian Owens Revives American Soul in Marvin Gaye Tribute

Brian Owens, music producer, writer, and recording artist from Ferguson, MO debuts his
show What’s Going On: The Marvin Gaye Experience with his band The Deacons of Soul 
at the Miramar Cultural Center on January 13. Owens, the self-described American soul 
singer, who started performing at the age of 17, celebrates the life, legacy and importance 
of Motown legend, Marvin Gaye.

Tell us about What’s Going On: The Marvin Gaye Experience. What can the audience expect?

The way we approach the show is not like an impersonation or like a traditional tribute. We 
really want to capture the essence and the spirit of Marvin Gaye because I think that his 
music, especially in times like these, is a living, breathing thing that still speaks. Myself and 
my band, The Deacons of Soul, we approached this show like it’s us taking part in preserving
 the music and legacy of Marvin Gaye from his early Motown singles, to his duets, to the love
songs, to what I feel is his most important work, What’s Going On. It’s a lot of fun to do it.
 Brian Owens
What is it about Marvin Gaye and the album What’s Going On that speaks to you?

Number one, the deep spirituality in the album. Also, the optimism of the album that exists within the context of addressing harsh realities. The ingenious musicality, not only of the instrumentation and the orchestration that I think is amazing, but Marvin’s vocals. He is a vocal genius. You put all of that together and you just look at the overall commentary of that record, it’s something special. It’s something that happens only a couple of times in our lifetime and I think that album feels unbelievably relevant. I think that album was given to him. God gave him that album.

You talk about how the topics in the album parallel much of what is going on today, including in your hometown of Ferguson, MO. How much of that influenced or inspired this show?

I did this show before Ferguson, a year before anything happened. It definitely validates the direction. Even as a songwriter, we do message music. That’s what we do. More now than ever, people need truth. They need entertainment that also engages them and enlightens them, otherwise you are just left empty. I think that the music of the 60s to mid-70s was so powerful because we were making music to nourish the soul, not just to move the booty. You wanted people to dance, but at the end of the day you wanted people to be informed. People needed music as a means to sustain them through certain situations. The What’s Going On album speaks to the reality of human nature. As much as we don’t want to admit it, it’s a reality.

Has the relevance of this music struck a chord with your audiences?

The first time we performed this show after the Mike Brown shooting, when I got to the part in Inner City Blues where he says “Crime is increasing. Trigger happy policing. Panic is spreading. God knows where we’re heading.”, it was visceral for people. You could tell that phrase hit people.

Owens says the show offers a good balance of thought-provoking, socially conscious music and Gaye’s earlier, uptempo hits like “Can I Get a Witness” to celebrate and pay tribute to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee.

The Miramar Cultural Center presents What’s Going On: The Marvin Gaye Experience on January 13 at 8 PM. Tickets start at $40.

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Published 12/07/2016