Marvin Gay Sr. shot his son point-blank in the heart and shoulder. They had a longstanding conflict that came to blows that fateful day.
All of us hope for loving parents but not all of us are lucky enough. Many of us have complicated relationships with our parents which can even take extreme forms like estrangement. There are many people who haven't spoken to their parents for years because of their traumatic childhood and abusive behavior. However, rarely is there a case when a parent is so toxic that it leads to bodily harm for us.
Soul and Motown legend Marvin Gaye had won our hearts with his melodic voice. His first single came out in 1961 and in his 25-year long career, Gaye gave numerous hits like I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (with Tammi Terrell), Let’s Get It On, and more. However, the singer nursed a broken heart because of his difficult childhood.
His life came to an end tragically on April 1, 1984, when his father shot and killed him a day before his 45th birthday. What killed him was a "gunshot wound to chest perforating heart, lung and liver,” according to the Los Angeles County Coroner, as reported by History.com.
Gaye reportedly had a long-lived conflict with his father, Marvin Gay, Sr. (the "e" was added by his son later as a stage name). Gay Sr. was a preacher in the Hebrew Pentecostal Church and expected his four children to follow his brutal and forced moral code. Born in Kentucky to an abusive father as well, he only perpetuated the cycle of abuse.
Despite being a preacher, Gay Sr. didn't live a black and white life himself. He was a violent alcoholic who took out his anger on Marvin most of all. Gaye had described living in his father’s house as "living with a king, a very peculiar, changeable, cruel, and all-powerful king," according to Allthatsinteresting.com.
As reported by History.com, it was said that Gay Sr. was a cross-dresser, a secret known by many in their Washington D.C. neighborhood. The Grammy-award winning singer was reportedly teased by children in his neighborhood because of his father. This prompted the Got To Give It Up singer to add an "e" to his last name to shut down rumors about his sexual orientation.
Marvin's sister Jeanne later revealed that his childhood "consisted of a series of brutal whippings" from their father. The singer, too, revealed the extent of the abuse. "By the time I was twelve, there wasn’t an inch on my body that hadn’t been bruised and beaten by him," he once said.
He was grateful to his mother, Alberta, for her kindness and encouragement. He had said that if not for her he would have killed himself. According to his brother, Frankie, who held him in his final moments, Marvin had shared a cryptic message while dying.
"I got what I wanted….I couldn’t do it myself, so I made him do it."
On the day of his death, Marvin and his father came to blows, reports the Mirror UK. After his last music tour, he moved home to live with his mother who was recovering from kidney surgery. Gay Sr. became furious with her since he was unable to locate a missing insurance policy. The Sexual Healing singer tried to protect his mother from his abusive father, which is when their argument turned physical.
Eventually, Alberta managed to separate the two men but that didn't stop Marvin Gay Sr. He left the room and returned with a .38 calibre pistol given to him by his son to look after at Christmas. He shot his son twice, once in the heart and once in the shoulder at point-blank range.
The first shot was the fatal one and Marvin bled out at home while his brother Frankie held him. Gay Sr. kept the pistol under his pillow and sat on the porch waiting for the police to arrest him.
The singer was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 1:01 pm. His funeral was held on April 5 in Glendale, California. It was attended by musicians like Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder as well as more than 10,000 mourners.
His voice continues to heal our soul even though his own remained raw and chaffed until the end. He is survived by three kids.