On April 1, 1984, legendary R&B singer/songwriter/activist Marvin Gaye was murdered by his own father, Marvin Gay, Sr.
He was a key figure in the creation of the Motown sound in the 1960s, first as a session vocalist and then as a solo artist. ‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)’ and ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ were among his Motown singles, as were duets with Mary Wells, Kim Weston, Diana Ross, and Tammi Terrell.
Gaye, like his labelmate Stevie Wonder, embodied and outgrew the popular sound that made Motown famous.
He effectively transitioned from bouncy pop to “message” music to satin-sheet soul over the course of his nearly 25-year recording career, integrating aspects of Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan, and Barry White into one intricate and sometimes contradictory product. But, as critic Michael Eric Dyson put it, the man who “chased away the demons of millions…with his heavenly sound and divine art” also had his own problems. Marvin Gaye’s life came to a terrible end on April 1, 1984, when his own father shot and killed him one day before his 45th birthday.
The singer was at his father’s house at 12:30 p.m. when the men “became involved in a verbal dispute that led to a physical altercation, pushing and shoving,” according to Lieut. Bob Martin of the Los Angeles Police Department.
According to Lieutenant Martin, the singer’s father then took a firearm from his residence and fired several bullets at his son.
On arriving at the California Hospital Medical Center, Gaye was pronounced dead.
Over the years, his passing has prompted several musical tributes. He was laid to rest in Forest Lawn Cemetery before being cremated and his ashes scattered into the Pacific Ocean.
However, as Marvin Gaye’s brother, Frankie, subsequently stated in his biography Marvin Gaye: My Brother, Marvin Gaye’s death seemed destined from the start.
Marvin Gaye’s father was a Christian pastor who believed in harsh discipline and was known to use physical punishment on his children.
He married his wife, Alberta Cooper, in 1935. Alberta already had a kid called Michael, but Gay sent him to live with his sister-in-law after claiming he couldn’t parent another man’s child.
They had many children: Jeanne, Marvin Jr., Frankie, and Zeola. Gay also has a son called Antwaun Carey, who was born after one of his adulterous encounters.
Marvin, Sr. was a crossdresser during a period when such conduct was less recognized and accepted than it is now. Because his father was a crossdresser and there were allegations that young Marvin was homosexual, Marvin, Jr. was tormented at school. As his music career took off, Marvin, Jr. added a “e” to his name to distinguish himself from his crossdressing father.
Marvin, Sr. was against his son’s desire to pursue a career in music. Marvin, Jr. and his father established a strained and tense relationship, in addition to tension rising because Marvin, Sr. was a stern disciplinarian. There were just a few instances of father-son friendship over the years.
Gaye described living in his father’s house as “living with a king, a very peculiar, changeable, cruel, and all-powerful king.”
According to some stories, Marvin Sr. was envious of his son’s enormous success, and Marvin Jr. had unresolved sentiments against his violent father.