On April 1, 1984, on the eve of his 45th birthday, Motown superstar and R&B legend, Marvin Gaye Jr. died of gunshot wounds inflicted by his own father.
The two men were at odds for Marvin Jr.’s entire life. Marvin Sr. was habitually unemployed—a vodka drinking fundamentalist preacher whose hobby was cross dressing. Like some artistic geniuses, Marvin Gaye Jr. had his share of flaws and demons. He put most of the millions he earned in music up his nose. He was a misogynist who beat his wives and girlfriends and was, in his own words, a “sex freak.” His hobbies were voyeurism and sexual sadism.
According to Marvin’s mother, his father showed no desire for Marvin, no love for him, and believed he was another man’s child. It’s not surprising that when the two men were together under one roof after years of living apart, the results were tragic. Marvin returned home from the “Sexual Healing” tour, drug addicted and paranoid, and even though they lived in the same house, Sr. and Jr. rarely spoke. Marvin stockpiled guns and, for some unknown reason, he gave his father an unregistered.38.
On the evening of March 31st, Sr. became increasingly angry when he couldn’t locate an insurance document. He started yelling at Marvin. Alberta briefly calmed her husband down; but he must have spent the night stewing instead of sleeping because, by the morning of April 1st, he was in a rage. He hollered at Alberta, who was in Marvin’s room. Marvin confronted his 71-year-old father, shoved him to the floor and beat and kicked him. Alberta intervened, and the two men went to neutral corners, but it wasn’t long before senior was back at the door to Marvin’s room—and he had the.38. He fired into Marvin’s chest, hitting him in the heart; he then moved toward his mortally wounded son and fired a second time.
Marvin’s brother, Frankie, who lived next door, held his brother as he died. Frankie wrote in his memoir that Marvin’s last words were, “I got what I wanted… I couldn’t do it myself, so I made him do it.” An ambulance rushed Marvin to California hospital where they pronounced him dead.
They charged the old man with murder but, because of his age and a recent brain tumor diagnosis, he could plead to voluntary manslaughter. They gave him a six-year suspended sentenced and six years of probation. After spending 49 years together, Alberta divorced him.
Reporters asked Marvin Sr. if he loved his son—he said, “Let’s say that I didn’t dislike him.”