The Troubled Life of Marvin Gaye and His Untimely Fall

Marvin Gaye was one of Motown’s brightest and most romantic star, but sadly his time in the limelight was short-lived. His life and career was full of range, promise, and also a tragedy. From being a young church singer to becoming one of the world’s most popular soul singers, Gaye provided us with singles like “Sexual Healing” and “What’s Going On.” But sadly, his sudden death brought all of it to a shocking end.

Photo By Dezo Hoffman/Shutterstock

Marvin Gaye’s life had its fair share of ups and downs, bringing him back to his parents’ house and into the line of fire, just one day before his 45th birthday. Marvin Gaye’s life was taken from him by none other than his own father in 1984, an event that shook everyone both near to him and far. The murder, which was rooted in stories of psychological and substance abuse, may clarify – but doesn’t necessarily explain – why it happened.

This is his story…

A Boy From a Simple City

Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. was born on April 2, 1939, in Washington, D.C. His father, Marvin Gay Sr. was a church minister and his mother, Alberta, was a domestic worker. Marvin had a brother, Frankie, and two sisters, Jeanne and Zeola. He also had two half-brothers, Michael, from his mother’s previous relationship, and Antwaun Carey, from one of his father’s extramarital affairs.

Marvin Gaye
Photo By Dezo Hoffman/Shutterstock

Marvin lived his early years in Southwest, a neighborhood he called ”Simple City.” Most people there lived in small houses that were overcrowded, many lacking running water and electricity. Like others who were growing up in poverty at that time, Marvin and his friends simply didn’t know any different and they just made do with the cards they were dealt.

Getting Teased

There was one thing, however, that made Marvin stand out from the rest. And no, I’m not referring to his talent… yet. The thing is, Marvin was teased by the other kids about his father. Marvin Sr. liked to dress up in women’s clothes and wear his wife’s stockings and heels. The neighbors would say that he was homosexual and so he was often talked about in the neighborhood.

Dezo Hoffman/Shutterstock

People thought that it was odd for a minister to behave in such a way, and Marvin Sr. just didn’t seem to care either. He was flamboyant and proud. He never spoke about being gay, but years later, he preferred to have a separate bedroom from his wife. And to make matters even more confusing, Marvin Sr. was said to have had a few affairs with some of the women from the church.

From the Very Beginning

But aside from his father’s cross-dressing and affairs, Marvin Sr. also had a heavy drinking problem. Marvin’s relationship with his father was a difficult one from the very beginning. Marvin Sr. refused to believe that Marvin Jr. was his biological son. And despite his wife telling him otherwise, it never left his mind and influenced his behavior towards his son for the rest of his life.

Marvin Gaye and his son with Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong
Marvin Gaye and his son with Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. Photo By Fotos International/Shutterstock

Marvin’s mother, on the other hand, adored him and the two had a close relationship. But Alberta was a soft and laid back type of person, who naturally stood back when her husband laid down the rules in the house. He was very strict and would often tell his kids that if they ever thought of disobeying him, to remember that he ”brought them into the world and he could take them back out.”

That phrase would become all too real for Marvin…

A Talented Son

Movies and TV were banned in their home, and the kids were set a curfew. Marvin was always the one to face beatings from his father as he was the most rebellious of the children. The only music allowed in the house was gospel, as Marvin Sr considered popular music to be the devil’s music. And so Marvin only knew of gospel music until he got a little bit older.

Stevie Wonder & Marvin Gaye at Stringfellows
Stevie Wonder & Marvin Gaye at Stringfellows. Photo By Alan Davidson/Shutterstock

Marvin began singing in the church when he was just four years old. His father played the piano as he sang, and people were amazed at this talented little boy. As people congratulated the minister on having such a talented son, he would say that his son was going to make the family rich someday.

Living With a King

From those early days singing in the church, Marvin felt that it was his calling and believed that he was chosen by God to bring the music to the people. His mother always encouraged him to follow his heart and even went behind her husband’s back to let Marvin listen to songs by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, among others.

New Year's Eve Lady Edith Foxwell & Marvin Gaye
New Year’s Eve Lady Edith Foxwell & Marvin Gaye. Photo By Alan Davidson/Shutterstock

Marvin loved the positive attention that singing brought him, but his life at home was becoming unbearable. Marvin said years later that living with his father was like ”living with a king, a very peculiar, changeable, cruel and all-powerful king.” He also said that it was his mother’s kind-heartedness that kept him alive and going. And Marvin, of course, turned to music to keep his spirits high.

A Brief Escape

At Randall Junior High, Marvin joined the Glee club. During his teenage years, the tension between him and his father hit a boiling point and he was often kicked out of the house. To escape the drama, Marvin dropped out of high school at 17 and decided to join the United States Air Force. But the Air Force wasn’t what he thought it was going to be.

Marvin Gaye and Mark Fleishman at Studio 54 New York City October 1983
Marvin Gaye and Mark Fleishman at Studio 54 New York City October 1983. Photo By Mediapunch/Shutterstock

He wasn’t up to performing what he called “menial tasks” and so he faked mental illness and was ultimately discharged. The rebel in Marvin just didn’t want to follow orders – something which was all too familiar to him and something he hated to his core. So now that he realized that the Air Force wasn’t for him, he came back to his first love: singing.

If at First, You Don’t Succeed…

It was after this brief distraction that he began his career in singing. First, he formed a vocal quartet with his friend Reese Palmer and two others, calling themselves ”The Marquees.” Their first single was a flop and they were dropped by their record label. But Marvin didn’t let it deter him – he was determined to carry on.

Marvin Gaye (R) attends the opening of Mr. Chow in Los Angeles
Marvin Gaye (R) attends the opening of Mr. Chow in Los Angeles on January 24, 1974. Photo By Fairchild Archive/Penske Media/Shutterstock

Harvey Fuqua, the co-founder of the Moonglows, hired the quartet and changed their name to ”Harvey and the New Moonglows.” 20-year-old Marvin and his newly renamed group recorded a number of songs in 1959, including his first lead vocal recording, ”Mama Loocie.” By then, the group relocated to Chicago. They found work as session singers and worked with famous singers like Chuck Berry (”Back in the U.S.A” and ”Almost Grown”).

Getting into the World of Motown

A year later, in 1960, the group broke up and Marvin moved to Detroit with manager Harvey Fuqua. Marvin started working at Tri-Phi Records as a session drummer. He performed at the home of Motown’s president, Berry Gordy, who was so impressed with Marvin’s voice, look and overall performance that he negotiated with Fuqua to get Marvin signed to Motown’s subsidiary, Tamla.

Photo By Dezo Hoffman/Shutterstock

Now that he was branching off and starting a career in music, he thought of changing his name to something more showbiz-like. He was always self-conscious of his last name. Ever since he was young, the kids at school would call him ”Mr. F****t.” In the end, he settled on just adding an “e” to the end of his name (like one of his idols, Sam Cooke).

Seeking and Ignoring the Wisdom of Others

Marvin released his first single, “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide”, in 1961, with the album ‘The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye.’ But both the album and single failed commercially, so he spent most of that year as a session drummer for artists like Jimmy Reed, The Marvelettes, and The Miracles for very little cash.

11/1974 Marvin Gaye
Photo By Globe Photos/Mediapunch/Shutterstock

He wasn’t giving up on his dream and worked hard at perfecting his art. He spoke with experienced artists who told him to keep his eyes open when he performed. They also told him to go to the John Roberts Powers School for Social Grace in Detroit, but he refused to go. Marvin was still rebellious by nature. He later said that he regretted not attending the school.

Marrying into Motown

It was in 1962 that he began to shine as a songwriter when he co-wrote a song for The Marvelettes that became a hit. ”Stubborn Kind of Fellow” was hit the 8th position on the R&B chart and 46 on the Billboard Hot 100. This is the time that Marvin also married Anna Gordy, the older sister of Motown’s Berry Gordy, who was 17 years older than Marvin.

Motowns 25th Anniversary Special
Motowns 25th Anniversary Special. Mary Wilson & Marvin Gaye. Photo By Bei/Shutterstock

The two met in 1960, and after three years, they tied the knot on June 8, 1963. There was no doubt that that the two fell deeply in love, but some people believed that Marvin also had an interest in furthering his career. Nonetheless, during those early Motown years, Anna served as inspiration for his songwriting.

His Pride and Joy

Marvin dedicated some of his songs to his wife, including his 1963 hit, “Pride and Joy.” But despite the passion and inspiration in their marriage, there were also accusations of infidelity and accounts of physical violence, which was committed by both of them. The couple (who would eventually divorce ten years later) adopted a son in 1966.

Photo By Eugene Adebari/Shutterstock

The baby boy was born to Denise Gordy, Anna’s sister, just days after her 17th birthday. So Marvin and Anna adopted him, calling him Marvin (as per family tradition, not out of respect). It was later revealed that Marvin was actually the biological father of the baby. Marvin was now a father, but he kept his career very much at the forefront.

The Best Duet of Them All

He reached the top 40 with his dance song ”Hitch Hike.” He also performed at the Apollo Theatre in June of 1963. In 1964, Marvin Gaye recorded a duet album with Mary Wells. ”How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” reached #6 on the Hot 100. After that, he started appearing on TV shows, such as American Bandstand and was in the concert film ‘The T.A.M.I Show. By 1965, he had two #1 singles with ”Ain’t That Peculiar” and ”I’ll Be Doggone;” both became million sellers.

Marvin Gaye In Concert - August 3, 1983
Marvin Gaye In Concert – August 3, 1983. Photo By Bei/Shutterstock

The most famous duet of them all was with Tammi Terrell. The two lit up the stage together as they sang songs like ”Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and ”Your Precious Love.” Their chemistry was obvious to everyone who saw them, but it was never revealed whether or not they ever had a romantic relationship.

On Top of the World… Until…

Marvin was on top of the world, and he was living the dream, enjoying the fame and success. But just as everything seemed to be falling into place, tragedy and heartache was just around the corner. It’s hard to say when Marvin’s depression began. We know of his difficult and abusive childhood, but sometimes it takes a tragic event to unleash years of pent-up emotions.

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Source: Pinterest

The fun came to a total stop when Marvin and Tammi were performing a show in Farmville, Virginia. Everything was going well at first, but Tammi suddenly collapsed into his arms. People panicked as nobody knew what was going on. Tammi was rushed to the hospital and Marvin was worried sick that he was going to lose her.

Devastated and Disillusioned

Unfortunately, they found a tumor in her brain. The diagnosis put an end to her live performances, but she did carry on recording. After her first operation, she and Marvin recorded ”Ain’t Nothing like the Real Thing” and ”You’re All I Need to Get By.” But as much as she wanted to continue making music with Marvin, she was just too ill.

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Source: Pinterest

Marvin and Tammi were in the middle of recording their third album, ”Easy,” when Tammi was too ill to continue. Marvin was devastated by Tammi’s illness and began to feel disillusioned with Motown and the whole record business. He didn’t like how artists were treated like products and how everything was always focused on sales and money.

Their Last Performance Together

In 1968, Marvin scored his first #1hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with ”I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Marvin’s career was on the rise, but instead of celebrating, he was still unable to come to terms with Tammi’s diagnosis. He started to dislike the record industry more and more as time passed. He would say things like how ”didn’t deserve” his success and ”felt like a puppet, Berry’s puppet, Anna’s puppet.”

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Source: Pinterest

In 1969, while Marvin was performing at the Apollo, he spotted Tammi in the audience and instantly rushed off the stage toward her, insisting that she sing with him. And so they both sung ”You’re All I Need to Get By,” and their touching performance earned them a standing ovation. It was Tammi’s final public appearance.

Losing Tammi

By 1970, Tammi was suffering from blindness, hair loss, and endured eight surgeries. She soon fell into a coma and later died on March 16, a month shy of her 25th birthday. Tammi’s death really pushed Marvin over the edge and he fell into a period of depression. A few months after her death, he managed to pull himself up and wanted to try something completely different.

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Source: Pinterest

He tried to join the professional football team, the Detroit Lions, but it didn’t come to be because there were just too many concerns about him developing serious injuries, which could affect his singing career. Rather than fall back into the familiar routine of feeling down on himself, he decided to channel his feelings into his music. And that’s when ”What’s Going On” was made.

Trendsetter of the Year

The song was actually inspired by an incident of police brutality, which was witnessed by Renaldo ‘Obie’ Benson. Berry Gordy told Marvin that it was too political for radio, but he refused to make any more music for Motown if they didn’t release the song. Marvin essentially got his wish and in 1971, the song shot to #1 of the R&B charts.

'Thank Your Lucky Stars' TV Programme
‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ TV Programme, 1961 – 1966. Photo By Fremantle Media/Shutterstock

The song was a major success and sold over two million copies. With that, Marvin Motown gave him creative control to record the ”What’s Going On” album, which was considered to be ”the most important and passionate record to come out of soul music, delivered by one of its finest voices.” Marvin earned two Grammy nominations for the album and Rolling Stone called it the album of the year. He was even named ”Trendsetter of The Year.”

Everything He Touched Turned to Gold

In 1971, Marvin signed a new $1 million record deal with Motown, which said to be the most lucrative deal by a black music artist at that time. Around this time, Marvin, Anna, and their son Marvin III left Detroit to live in Los Angeles. In 1973, the album, ”Let’s Get It On,” was released. Marvin also recorded a duet album with the one and only Diana Ross.

Marvin Gaye Performing On Stage 11/1974
Photo By Globe Photos/Mediapunch/Shutterstock

Everything Marvin touched had seemed to turn to gold and Motown was aware that they had a superstar on their hands. He toured throughout 1974 and 1975 and built his own studio. That summer, he ventured into his first European tour in a decade. But despite his international success as a recording artist, his marriage was nowhere near golden.

From Anna to Janis

In 1977, his turbulent marriage with Anna came to an official end. There were rumors that he was having an affair with a girl who was 17 years old (Marvin was 38). Her name was Janis Hunter, and the two indeed were an item. And like Anna, Hunter also served as inspiration for the talented artist. Hunter, the child of jazz musician Slim Gaillard, was Marvin’s muse and inspiration for the song “If I Should Die Tonight.”

Marvin Gaye Anna Gordy
Marvin Gaye and Anna Gordy. Source: Pinterest

A few years earlier, during Marvin’s 1974 concert tour, he performed “Jan” to his new love. The two married in 1977, after his divorce to Anna was finalized. Marvin and Janis went on to have two children of their own: Nona and Frankie. And their relationship was just as turbulent as his was with Anna.

From Janis to Drugs

Janis later stated Marvin would sometimes make her have relationships with other men. Janis also described the marriage as abusive. Their “open” marriage, domestic abuse, and both of their drug dependence became too problematic and Janis decided to file for divorce in 1979. According to Janis, she went “back and forth across the ocean, around and around, just chasing this relationship that never worked, but I wasn’t willing to give up and neither was he.”

Photo By Eugene Adebari/Shutterstock

His 1976 album, “I Want You,” was heavily influenced by their affair. And then in 1978, his album ”Here, My Dear” was inspired by the end of his marriage to Anna. He was sinking into another deep depression again and couldn’t pull himself out of it. To make things worse, he became addicted to cocaine and with that came financial problems.

In a Bad Place

Marvin then moved to Maui, Hawaii, to try to record a disco album. In 1980, he went on another European tour and by the end of the tour, he stayed in London for fear that he would be sent to prison for failure to pay taxes that totaled $4.5 million. By 1981, his divorce from Janis was finalized.

Marvin Gaye at Stringfellows
Photo By Alan Davidson/Shutterstock

While in London, he started working on an album when someone stole a master tape from a traveling musician of his and took it to Motown. Motown then remixed the album and released it that year. Marvin was furious with Motown for editing and remixing the album without his consent. He never to record any music for Motown again. But Marvin was in a bad place – with the drugs, financial problems, and now with Motown.

The Heavy Love Affair Tour

Music promoter Freddy Cousaert persuaded Marvin to stay in his apartment in Belgium. Freddy wanted to help Marvin get off the drugs and back to his best self. And it worked. In Belgium, Marvin managed to turn things around; he started to eat healthy, attend a local church, exercise, and most importantly, he stopped taking drugs. He started to feel passionate about music again and began writing and recording.

Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye
Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. Photo By Alan Davidson/Shutterstock

He decided to do a mini-tour in England in the summer of 1981 to see how audiences would respond. It was called the ”Heavy Love Affair” tour. Word got around that Marvin was planning a comeback and that he was leaving Motown. Record companies were desperate to sign him. CBS Records ended up winning the race.

A Major Comeback

Marvin’s next album was ”Midnight Love” in 1982, and on it was his next best hit, ”Sexual Healing,” which was written and recorded in his apartment in Belgium. The song was a massive hit, spending 10 weeks at #1 on the Hot Black Singles chart. The song became one of the biggest selling singles of the 80s and sold over two million copies in America alone. It’s safe to say that Marvin’s comeback was beyond great and he was at the top of his game once again.

New Year's Eve Marvin Gaye, 1981
New Year’s Eve Marvin Gaye, 1981. Photo By Alan Davidson/Shutterstock

When asked about his music in 1982, he told NME magazine: ”I don’t make music for pleasure. I did when I was a younger artist, but I don’t today. I record so that I can feed people what they need, what they feel. Hopefully, I record so that I can help someone overcome a bad time.” But his days in the limelight were nearing the end…

His Last Concert Tour

In April of 1983, Marvin kicked off what would be his final concert tour. The tour was plagued with problems from the beginning. Sadly, one of his road crew members had just committed suicide while there were in New Jersey. Also, a month before rehearsals began, Marvin checked into a San Francisco hotel and sent his valet to buy a tape deck and copies of his albums.

Marvin Gaye and the Commodores 1983
Marvin Gaye and the Commodores 1983. Photo By Mediapunch/Shutterstock

Why? Because he forgot the lyrics to his songs. ”He told me he couldn’t remember all the lyrics, so every morning of every day, I would put Marvin’s stuff on the ghetto-blaster and let him re-learn them,” said George, Marvin’s Valet. After all his hard work getting clean, depression crept back in and pulled Marvin into a drug binge once again.

Tormented by His Father’s Lack of Appreciation

His addiction took over his life as he was in a constant state of paranoia and was suffering from delusions. Despite all the positive things in his career at that point, many suspect that it was all too much for him – the pressure and fame. His relationship with his father would continue to torment him. Whenever he would try to build bridges with his father, nothing came of it.

Marvin Gaye In Concert - August 3, 1983
Marvin Gaye In Concert – August 3, 1983. Photo By Bei/Shutterstock

He would invite his father to come to his performances, but Marvin Sr. always refused. His father wasn’t showing any love or acceptance of his successful son, nor did he appreciate the fact that he was continuing to live off of the money that his son worked hard to make.

Voices in His Head

Every night on that tour, Marvin would sweat profusely on stage. There would be nights where he would strip down to his underwear and dance in a crazy manner. He would hear voices in his head, telling him he was in danger and he even smashed a TV in his hotel room. His bodyguards were forced to stay in rooms at either side of his, and at various hours of the night, Marvin called them to inspect his room.

Magic Johnson, Marvin Gaye, Dyan Cannon and Stevie Wonder
Magic Johnson, Marvin Gaye, Dyan Cannon and Stevie Wonder. Photo By Bei/Shutterstock

The bodyguards were used to Marvin’s behavior, as strange as it was, and learned to just listen and nod as he told them of his visions of someone who was going to shoot him on stage. He even insisted on wearing a bulletproof vest at times and have guns for protection. His sister, Sweetsie, was on tour, too, and her job was to bring Marvin water while on stage because he didn’t trust anyone else.

For Protection

As Marvin was failing to keep up with the payments to his ex-wife and wasn’t showing up at court appearances, threats were made. And like a classic game of broken telephone, the messages that got back to Marvin were a little filtered, and the already paranoid singer was starting to fear for his life. And that of his family’s.

New Club Opening Party Lady Edith Foxwell and Marvin Gaye
New Club Opening Party Lady Edith Foxwell and Marvin Gaye. Photo By Alan Davidson/Shutterstock

Marvin believed that if someone who wanted to kill him couldn’t get to him, they could try to kill his family instead. So he arranged for one of his bodyguards to take a gun to his parents’ house. His father definitely had a violent nature, but he didn’t have experience with guns. Nevertheless, he agreed to keep it in the house “for protection,” should the occasion arise. He hid it under his pillow in his bedroom.

Marvin didn’t realize that this would end up costing him his own life…

Out of Control

Marvin was spinning out of control, and so his bodyguard contacted Civil Rights Leader Dick Gregory, who offered to take Marvin to a farm in Massachusetts to detoxify. But when Marvin heard the plan, he refused to leave his hotel room. To make matters worse, his ex-wife Jan came on the tour (despite the legal battles) for some drugs and “sexual healing.”

Marvin Gaye In Concert - August 3, 1983
Marvin Gaye In Concert – August 3, 1983. Photo By Bei/Shutterstock

During an argument during the tour, Jan collapsed with severe heart palpitations due to her heavy drug use. She was alive, but that was the last time Jan ever saw Marvin. Marvin felt so ill after the argument that he decided to cancel the next two shows and enter a private hospital in Florida for ”exhaustion” and “dehydration.”

Back to His Parents’ House

The last show of the tour was in California, and Marvin decided to stay at his parent’s house (which he bought for them) for a little while as his mother was recovering from kidney surgery and his father left her to go on a trip. When his father came back, Marvin was furious with him, expressing his anger that he wasn’t there to look after her.

Motowns 25th Anniversary Special
Motowns 25th Anniversary Special. Photo By Bei/Shutterstock

They haven’t lived in the same house since 1957, but the tension between Marvin Jr. and Sr. didn’t fade over the years. Rather, it got worse. The fights became a daily occurrence. Marvin preferred to stay in his bedroom, and his parents had their own separate bedrooms at either side of his. The thing is, while Marvin never specified who he thought was trying to kill him, some people felt that he had good reason to worry – that it wasn’t ALL just paranoia.

Praying and Fasting

Marvin Sr. was fed up with the constant stream of people coming to see Marvin at the house. 20 to 30 people were showing up at all hours of the day and night, either selling Marvin drugs or just taking them there with him. Despite being 44 years old, Marvin rarely left his bedroom and would refuse to shower for days on end. He preferred to wear his dressing gown, which always had a gun in the pocket.

Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye
Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye. Photo By Bei/Shutterstock

Through his bouts of depression and drug abuse, Marvin had tried to take his life more than once, even though he personally thought that suicide was an unforgivable sin. His mother would read the bible with him, as she tried to lift his spirits. She asked the local minister, Shelton West, for guidance. Both Marvin and his mother prayed and fasted for three days.

From Fear to Anger

Meanwhile, Marvin Sr., who had spent the past ten years battling alcohol addiction, was suspicious of his wife and thought she was having secret affairs with Marvin’s friends. He was also envious of his wife’s relationship with Marvin, who he would see reading the bible together and bonding. His father never liked that his son was the family breadwinner and resented the fact that his son bought their house.

Marvin Gaye with Children Frankie Gay and Nona Gaye 1983
Marvin Gaye with Children Frankie Gay and Nona Gaye 1983. Photo By Bei/Shutterstock

As for Marvin Jr., his early days of fear and desire to be accepted by his father turned to hate and anger towards the man. According to minister West, ”I remember once or twice Marvin Sr. showing me his gun that he kept under his pillow and sometimes I even became afraid to go over there because he’d be so upset with Marvin and he’d say, ‘I’m going to kill him, I’m going to kill him’. I would try to talk him down, but he was a hard person to calm.”

The Day Before His Last

Marvin had asked his bodyguard, Andre, to record their conversations on the phone. And in a final recorded conversation, which lasted three hours, Marvin told Andre about his father’s threats to kill him. Andre tried to persuade Marvin him that deep down somewhere; his father loved him. The day before April 1, 1984 – Marvin’s last day alive – Marvin Sr. frantically looked through documents to find a life insurance policy.

Nona Gaye
Nona Gaye. Photo By Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock

He was heard shouting, which was a common occurrence as Marvin would constantly yell back at his father to stop shouting at his mother. The next morning, Marvin Sr. was still looking for those insurance documents. Then, at 12:20 pm, Marvin, in his maroon bathrobe, was talking to his mother when his father appeared at the doorway. He started harassing his wife about the insurance documents, telling her to look for them.

A Final Argument

Marvin asked his father to come into his room and talk about it instead of shouting at her, saying, ”If you don’t come into my room now, then don’t you ever come into my room again.” But Marvin Sr. carried on shouting, which led to Marvin Jr. pushing him out of the door. ”You can’t talk to my mother that way.” His father went to his bedroom and sat down at his desk.

Marvin Gaye Jr., Berry Gordy and Berry Gordy Jr.
Marvin Gaye Jr., Berry Gordy and Berry Gordy Jr. Photo By Bei/Shutterstock

Marvin followed him, yelling at him, ”I’ll beat you up!” His father claimed that Marvin pulled him out of his chair and beat him up as he was lying on the floor. Alberta took Marvin back to his room, trying to calm him down. He told her, ”Mother, I’m going to get my things and get out of this house. Father hates me, and I’m never coming back.”

In His Father’s Line of Fire

Alberta stood about eight feet away from Marvin when her husband stood at the door, holding the gun Marvin sent to him. And then and there, without saying a word, his father aimed at Marvin and shot him. Marvin slid off the bed and slumped forward in a sitting position. Alberta ran out of the room. That bullet hit Marvin’s lung, heart, diaphragm, liver, stomach, and left kidney.

Music's Greatest Memorabilia Collection, Marvin Gaye: Address Book
Hard Rock on Wheels: Music’s Greatest Memorabilia Collection, Marvin Gaye: Address Book. Photo By Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

His father then moved closer and shot him again. Now, this bullet went into his left shoulder and came out of his back. His father then turned around, returned to his room, placed the gun back under his pillow, and sat down on the bed. Marvin’s brother Frankie heard the gunshots when he was outside and rushed to the house.

Marvin’s Last Words

Frankie found Marvin on his bedroom floor, losing a lot of blood but he was still conscious. Frankie’s wife, Irene, went to Marvin Sr.’s room and found him still sitting on the bed, staring into space. She found the gun under his pillow and threw it out of the window, scared that he would continue on a rampage. She then called the police.

Marvin Gay Sr. being arrested

Back in Marvin’s room, Frankie was in tears, holding his brother in his arms. He told Irene what Marvin had just told him. His last words were: ”I got what I wanted…I couldn’t do it myself, so I had him do it…it’s good, I ran my race. There’s no more left in me.” When the police finally arrived, about 20 minutes later, Marvin Sr. was sitting on the front porch where he was then arrested.

A Shocking Reaction

Marvin’s body was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. He was just hours shy of his 45th birthday. After Marvin Sr. was arrested, his reaction shocked the police. ”What shocked me, was that he seemed more concerned about what was going to happen to him than the fact his son was dead,” Detective McCahn said. At the police station, he pleaded that he killed his son in self-defense – he was scared something was going to happen to him.

Photo By Eugene Adebari/Shutterstock

He also claimed that he didn’t know the gun was fully loaded. When asked if he even loved his son, he said, ”Let’s say I didn’t dislike him.” Alberta said years earlier, ”My husband never wanted Marvin, and he never liked him. He used to say that he didn’t think he was really his child. I told him that was nonsense. He knew Marvin was his, but for some reason he didn’t love Marvin, and what’s worse, he didn’t want me to love Marvin either. Marvin wasn’t very old before he understood that.”

Marvin’s Funeral

Four days after his death, Marvin Gaye’s funeral was attended by 10,000 fans who paid their respects at his open casket. Marvin was dressed in a gold and white military uniform, which was one of his favorite costumes from his final tour. Smokey Robinson and Dick Gregory spoke at his funeral, and Stevie Wonder gave a musical tribute.

Marvin Gaye's funeral
Source: Pinterest

His mother pulled Gerard White, one of the bodyguard’s on Marvin’s final tour, aside and whispered to him: ”That’s one gun I wish you had never given to my son.” Marvin was then cremated. Due to Marvin not being of correct mind to leave a will, all of his estate went to his adopted son, Marvin III, who was 17 years old at the time. Marvin’s debts were sorted out over the following years as royalties from his songs covered the debts.

Paying the Price

Medical examination and tests revealed that Marvin Sr. had a benign tumor in his pituitary gland. His lawyers later used this information in court, claiming that his tumor may have affected his actions when he murdered his son. The judge, however, ruled that Marvin Sr. was competent to stand trial and knew full well what he had done.

Marvin Gaye funeral
Source: Pinterest

Marvin’s autopsy revealed that he had traces of PCP and cocaine in his system, but that they were taken days before his death and not active in his system during the day he died. On September 20, 1984, Marvin Sr. pleaded no contest to a voluntary manslaughter. During his sentencing hearing two months later, Marvin Sr. told the court: ”If I could bring him back, I would. I was afraid of him. I thought I was going to get hurt. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I’m really sorry for everything that happened. I loved him. I wish he could step through this door right now. I’m paying the price now.”

The Aftermath

Marvin Sr. was sent to six years in prison and five years of probation. Alberta divorced her husband after 49 years of marriage. When he returned from prison, he moved into a nursing home. Alberta passed away from cancer only three years after her son’s death. But before she died, she founded the Marvin P. Gaye, Jr. Memorial Foundation. The foundation helps people with drug and alcohol problems.

Photo By Dezo Hoffman/Shutterstock

Marvin Sr. died of pneumonia in the nursing home he was living in, nine days before his 84th birthday. Marvin’s music lives on decades later. He was posthumously awarded Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In 2018, rapper Dr. Dre was reportedly in talks to produce a biopic about the late singer. Frankie, who was the spitting image of Marvin, wrote about a book called ‘Marvin Gaye: My Brother.’ Frankie passed away in 2001 at the age of 60.