Richard Sherrill was working as a musician at Walt Disney World in 1974 when he landed a memorable side job: playing percussion for Marvin Gaye, who came to Orlando, FL, to perform on Thanksgiving Day.
“The stadium was packed with screaming Marvin Gaye fans,” Sherrill said. “It was a good gig.”
Sherrill, who is now business customer intelligence director at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC, is one of many postal workers who are reflecting on Gaye’s legacy following the recent release of the stamp honoring him.
‘Ahead of his time’
Adriena Hedstrom, a Federal Way, WA, health and resources specialist, said Gaye’s music served as the soundtrack for her youth in Detroit during the Motown era.
“I particularly associate Marvin Gaye with summertime. Everyone blasted his music while doing yardwork, cleaning cars or having barbecues,” she said.
Likewise, St. Paul, MN, Mailpiece Design Analyst Linda Engman said listening to Gaye transports her back to 1968, when Engman and her five sisters would hear his music while cruising to the beach in the backseat of their mom’s Oldsmobile Delta 88.
“‘Mercy, Mercy Me’ comes on the radio and I am intent on listening to the words and understanding their meaning when I am only 10 years old. Bam! It hits me that he’s singing about the planet,” Engman said, describing the experience.
“When I look back now, I realize how far ahead of his time Marvin was and how the message in this song is still relevant 51 years later.”
‘I played that album constantly’
Gaye (1939-1984) was part of a Saturday morning ritual in William Jenkins Jr.’s home, where his mother cooked breakfast while his father blasted songs like “Got to Give It Up” and “What’s Going On?”
“I was brought up on his music,” said Jenkins, who is now a USPS tractor-trailer operator in Louisville, KY.
Buckingham, PA, Postmaster David Seneca frequently played “What’s Going On?”, Gaye’s landmark album about the Vietnam War, while serving in the Air Force in the early 1970s.
“I played that album constantly when I would sit in my room with the door open, shining my shoes, on the third floor of my barracks,” Seneca said. “All the young servicemen heard the wonderfully written songs on that album that was so relevant to the times.”
‘I was playing with Marvin Gaye’
Other employees have fond memories of Gaye’s concerts — Oklahoma City, OK, Customer Relations Coordinator Sonya Dulan still remembers where she and her date sat during one show (“Row 1, seats 5 and 6”) — but Sherrill is among the lucky few who can say he performed with the iconic singer.
Because Sherrill’s performance occurred on Thanksgiving Day 1974, the future Postal Service employee was unable to have dinner with a young woman he was interested in at the time.
“I told her that while I appreciated the invitation, I was playing in a concert with Marvin Gaye and wouldn’t be able to accept,” he recalled. “Now how many times does one get to say that?”