April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984
“There are still times I feel unhappy and I must smile, and there are times I want to cry and I must laugh… people rarely see the real Marvin Gaye.”
For showbiz purposes, Marvin added an ‘e’ to his last name. His family remained Gay. Snicker, snicker.
By the time 1984 rolled around, Marvin was on a train ride to hell. He owed a lot of money to the IRS, and he was in the midst of a downward spiral of drug addiction and abuse. He wasn’t able to hold on to a relationship, and was becoming increasingly more paranoid. He told his musicians that he was being stalked by murderers, and began wearing a bullet-proof vest.
On April 1, 1984, Marvin was staying in his parent’s house, in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles.
The house is still there, on Gramercy.
He was strung out, doing loads of cocaine and spent hours watching porn videos in his bedroom. He was wearing a maroon bathrobe that he’d been wearing for days. He carried a pistol in the pocket of his robe, and had a small arsenal under his bed. He was convinced that someone was going to kill him.
I have to preface the next part by saying that according to most published sources, Marvin had a turbulent-at-best relationship with his father, Marvin Gay, Sr. They say that the senior Gay abused Marvin as a child, and resented his fame and glory, yet lived off the profits. What follows are quotes from Marvin’s mother, Alberta:
“That morning, my husband (Gay, Sr.) came walking through my bathroom door, and asked me where he could find this insurance letter. I couldn’t hear him very well, so Marvin asked him to come into the room where we were. My husband said no, he wouldn’t come in the room.”
Marvin told him, ”If you don’t come in now, don’t you ever come into my room again.”
“Then my husband came in the room. Marvin told him to get out, and got up from the bed, walked over to my husband, and pushed him back. Marvin pushed him a couple of times. My husband turned and walked back to his bedroom. Marvin followed him, yelling little cuss words at him. Marvin told his father, ”I’ll beat you up.”
Both of them went into the father’s room. “I didn’t see what happened in the bedroom,” related Alberta, “I heard my husband say, ‘He’s kicking me. I don’t have to take that.”’
“When I entered the room, my husband was on the floor, and Marvin was standing a short distance away. I took Marvin by the arm and led him back to his room. I sat him on the foot of the bed. Marvin told me, “Mother, I’m going to get my things and get out of this house. Father hates me and I’m never coming back.”
“I was standing about eight feet away from Marvin, when my husband came to the door of the bedroom with his pistol. My husband didn’t say anything, he just pointed the gun at Marvin. I screamed but it was very quick. He, my husband, shot – and Marvin screamed. I tried to run. Marvin slid down to the floor after the first shot.”
The first 38-caliber slug had entered his right chest at a 30 degree downward angle, perforating the right lung, heart, diaphragm, liver, stomach, and left kidney before coming to rest against his left flank. It was immediately fatal.
Gay, Sr. stepped forward and fired again at point-blank range. He then went downstairs to the front porch, threw the pistol out onto the lawn and sat down to await police.
Marvin Gaye, Jr. was taken to the California Hospital Medical Center, and pronounced dead at 1:01 p.m. It was one day before his 45th birthday.
Gay, Sr. was arrested, and soon, crowds of eager spectators gathered in front of the house.
Marvin’s body was taken from the hospital to Forest Lawn Glendale, where more than 10,000 people passed his open casket.
He was dressed in a gold and white military uniform, one of his costumes from his final tour. A brown weasel (Yes, a weasel, okay well, ermine. Same diff. By the way, don’t you hate when people say “Same difference?” It’s almost as bad as “It was like déjà vu all over again.” Man, I hate that. Sorry, this isn’t about me, is it?) wrap was around his shoulders.
Findadeath friend SW sends this picture of (WARNING Dead Pic!) Marvin in the box. Thanks SW.
Stevie Wonder sang at the service, Smokey Robinson spoke, as did Dick Gregory (Marvin was a big fan). Gaye’s mother, ex wives and three kids were there too. His mom bent over the casket and kissed Marvin’s cheek. After the service, he was cremated, and his family scattered his ashes at sea.
In prison, Gay, Sr. was asked if he loved his son. His reply was, “Let’s say that I didn’t dislike him.” Charming. Upon examination, doctors found a walnut-size tumor in his pituitary gland, at the base of his brain. There was no way of knowing how long it was there, or if it affected his behavior.
In June, he was ruled competent to stand trial. His wife sued for divorce, and moved in with her daughter.
In the trial, the jury examined photographs of Gay, Sr.’s body, and there were bruises. The Judge, Ronald M. George accepted a no contest plea of voluntary manslaughter with a gun. On November 2nd, he was sentenced to five years probation.
Mrs. Gay died three years later, of bone cancer. Marvin Gay, Sr. died in October of 1998. I’ll bet Marvin is kickin’ his ass right now.
UPDATE AUGUST 2001:
Findadeath.com friend Bill Simoneau sends this in: “I was to be the stage manager on his final tour. My roommate was one of the investors/promoters. The tour sold out all 17 dates in advance. Marvin performed 2 or 3 shows, then I joined the tour in El Paso. We had everything ready for sound check, when word came that the rest of the tour was canceled. The story I got was that after the 2nd or 3rd concert, he had been paid a large sum of cash as a deposit for the rest of the tour.
Marvin had some visitors in his hotel room, and some sort of transaction MAY have taken place involving the exchanging of briefcases. He then had a doctor issue a certificate stating that Mr. Gaye was suffering from exhaustion, and unfit to continue the tour. Mr. Gaye soon disappeared and was unreachable to the promoters, who had paid him half his fee for the remaining 15 or so shows. They also suffered losses from advertising costs and other promotion incidentals. My roommate had invested along with a number of people from many walks of life, including an African ambassador to the U.N.
Mr. Gaye was not hallucinating when he thought people were after him. They WERE! Some time later, in what may have been his last performance, I saw him singing the National Anthem on TV (I think it was an Ice Skating extravaganza). My roommate immediately made several calls in a frantic attempt to have someone get to the venue before he left. Lawsuits were filed but the losses were never recovered. My roommate lost a rental house he owned.
A few years later, I was involved in a show for the NFL Players Association. I was talking to someone backstage about that Marvin Gaye tour, when one of the player’s attorneys overheard me, and started screaming at me and reading me the riot act and defending Marvin Gaye as if he was a saint. I would recognize this screaming lawyer many years later, on a highly watched soap opera. His name was Johnnie Cochran.
Cheers, Bill Simoneau”
Wow, Bill. Thanks for that great information. How interesting!
Added August 2003: Findadeath.com friend Renata sends us this: I just wanted to fill you in on something. Marvin’s younger brother, Frankie Gaye (he also added an “e” for showbiz purposes), died in 2001 of complications following a heart attack. He resembled him (Marvin), and had even covered a number of songs which he originally recorded and had also performed with a few artists he had performed with. He wrote a book about Marvin entitled, “Marvin Gaye, My Brother”, but died before it was published.
Thanks to Bob Siler for these very bad jokes:
Q What did Marvin’s dad tell him before he shot him?
A This is the last 45 you’ll ever hear.
Q What was Marvin’s last hit?
A I heard it through the carbine.
Check out this great website about Marvin, HERE.