April 1, 1984. This was the day when Marvin Gaye, the man and the voice behind some of the most famous R & B hits of the era, was killed. The murder was committed by Marvin Gaye’s own father, and it was the day just before the singer’s 45th birthday. And sadly, it wasn’t an April Fool’s trick.
Who was Marvin Gaye?
We’re going to assume that you’re simply too young to know any better, if you haven’t heard of Marvin Gaye. So it’s time that you discovered the Prince of Motown, who combined elements of Barry White, Smokey Robinson, and even Bob Dylan into his own inimitable sound.
If you are preparing an intimate dinner at home and you’re trying to impress a girl, it’s time to get your Marvin Gaye collection out. Make sure to play “Let’s Get It On” and “Sexual Healing”. Add “What’s Going On”, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and “I Heard It through the Grapevine” to the playlist as well.
The trouble really started as far back as Marvin Gaye Jr.’s childhood. Marvin Gaye Sr. was a preacher in the Hebrew Pentecostal Church who advocated and enforced a strict code of morality. And yet he was abusive and a hard drinker and his children suffered through his punishments.
So you can imagine the tension between the two, since Marvin Jr.’s outlook and lifestyle were so much different than his father’s. Some people said that the father was envious of his son’s success, while obviously the singer also had complicated feelings about his abusive dad.
It didn’t help that a year before the murder, Jr. had moved in back to his father’s house. He was beset with problems involving cocaine abuse, depression, and a mounting debt.
What Happened that Day?
An argument had ensued between father and son that morning over a missing insurance company letter. The argument led to a physical altercation, during which the singer beat his father.
The singer was in his bedroom with his mother trying to calm him down when his father entered the room. The father came with a revolver, ironically given to him by his famous son. The father shot his son 3 times in the chest (“gunshot wound to chest perforating heart, lung and liver,” according to the Los Angeles County Coroner) which killed the singer.
Marvin Gaye Sr. pleaded guilty to the charge of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to just 5 years probation.
There are several possible reasons that led to the shooting. One mitigating circumstance was that the father was sick and may not have been thinking rationally. Shortly after his arrest, the father was found to have a brain tumor.
It may also have been a form of suicide by the singer, similar to “suicide by cop”. According to the singer’s brother who held him in his arms during his final moment, the singer’s last words were especially disturbing.
“I got what I wanted…I couldn’t do it myself, so I made him do it.”
Marvin Gaye may be gone, but his music lives on. His hit songs will remain eternal classics that will never become old.