The Tragic Life & Death Of Marvin Gaye | Part Four

(Marvin Gaye's parent's house. Photo credit:

Continued from part three....

Marvin never specified who he thought was trying to kill him but some people thought that he had good reason to worry and that it wasn't all just down to paranoia. Some suggested that he may have owed money to drug dealers, had affairs with people's wives and the husbands had found out or that he'd upset people in the industry.

''It wasn't a delusion, there were management companies after him, people wanted to make money out of him and when he said no, they got mad.'' - Gordon Banks, a musician who had played on the final tour.

Back home at his parent's house which Marvin had bought for them, things began to get worse. Marvin and his father had not lived in the same house since 1957 and his father had become fed up with the constant stream of people coming to the house to see Marvin. There was 20 to 30 people coming at all hours of the day and night and a lot of them were unsavoury characters who were either selling Marvin drugs or taking them with him.

Marvin rarely left his room and would refuse to wash for days on end, preferring to stay in his maroon coloured dressing gown which always had one of his guns in the pocket. He was convinced that someone would do a drive by shooting so tried to stay away from the windows as much as possible.

When Marvin was going through depression he often spoke of suicide although he thought that suicide was an unforgivable sin.

''He felt that everyone was using him. He felt that a lot of people loved him only for what he could do for them or what they could get out of him. During the tour he told me that he didn't feel that people loved him for what he was and that his mother was the only person who really loved him. He always longed for the love of his father but never got it.'' - Andrew White, Marvin's bodyguard on his final tour.

Marvin's mother would often read the bible with him in an effort to lift his spirits. She asked the minister Shelton West, of the local House of God for guidance. Marvin and his mother fasted and prayed for three days.

''We prayed that he would be healed of that suicidal mind. He felt condemned because he had diverted from God. He would even tell us never to do what he did, never to go the way he had gone.'' - Shelton West.

Marvin Sr began to suspect that his wife was having secret affairs with Marvin's friends and even tried to suggest that Marvin and his mother were having an incestuous relationship. He would often see them laid side by side reading the bible and it would make him jealous to see the close bond between his wife and their son. Marvin's father had spent the past 10 years battling an alcohol addiction.

His father always disliked the fact that Marvin was the family breadwinner. He resented the fact that Marvin had bought their house and that everything had to run through him. Marvin Sr considered himself to be the man of the family and they could never agree on anything. Marvin was said to enjoy some of the later arguments with his father, there seemed to be no love lost between the two of them and Marvin had grown tired of his father's coldness towards him.

Marvin had spent his early years in fear of his father and craved his love and praise but that had now turned to anger and hatred. He must have been in such confliction about how to feel about his father because it never mattered what success he achieved, his father was always there in the background, never approving and no matter what he did, it was never good enough.

''I remember once or twice Marvin Sr showing me his gun that he kept under his pillow and sometimes I even became afraid to go over there because he'd be so upset with Marvin and he'd say, 'I'm going to kill him, I'm going to kill him'. I would try to talk him down but he was a hard person to calm,'' - Shelton West.

Marvin had asked his bodyguard, Andre, who he referred to as ''Dre'' to record their conversations on the phone.

''He would like me to tape our conversations. He would sometimes say things then later claim that he had never said them and so we started recording everything as a kind of protection.'' - Andre, Marvin's bodyguard.

In a final recorded conversation which lasted three hours, Marvin spoke about his father's threats to kill him one day and Andre tried to convince him that somewhere deep down that his father loved him.

Marvin arranged for surveillance cameras to be placed around the outside of the house for added protection as he became paranoid about noises outside. 

His brother Frankie was struggling to find ways to get Marvin out of his depression and off of the cocaine. He contacted Marvin's close friend Dave Simmons and they decided that the only way to help Marvin was to take him by force out of the house. They knew it wouldn't be easy but something had to be done. Previously, in a rare occasion outside of the house, Marvin had tried to jump out of a moving vehicle in an attempt to commit suicide but surprisingly only suffered minor cuts and bruises. They had a feeling that he would make an attempt on his life again so they decided that they would take Marvin to an Addiction Unit on the 1st of April.

The day before the 1st of April 1984, Marvin Sr was frantically looking through documents trying to find a life insurance policy. He was heard shouting throughout the house, as usual there were arguments between Marvin's parents with Marvin trying to intervene and tell his father to stop shouting at his mother.

Th argument soon calmed down and everyone went to their own rooms. The next morning, Marvin Sr was still looking for the insurance document.

At 12:20 pm, Marvin had been lying on his bed dressed in his maroon bathrobe and talking to his mother. His father appeared at the doorway and began harassing his wife about the insurance document, he wanted her to look for it. Marvin asked him to come into the room and talk about it rather than shout at his mother.

Marvin said to his father, ''If you don't come into my room now, then don't you ever come into my room again.''

Marvin Sr carried on shouting which prompted Marvin to jump off of his bed and walk over to his father where he tried to push him out of the door and said ''You can't talk to my mother that way.''

His father turned around and went to his bedroom and sat down at his desk but Marvin followed him shouting ''I'll beat you up'' and ''M*therf**ker! You want some more?''

His father later claimed that Marvin pulled him off of his chair and proceeded to kick and punch him whilst he was lying on the floor. Alberta ran to her husband's room where she found him lying on the floor, Marvin was stood a few feet away from him. Alberta took Marvin back to his room to try and calm him down. He sat at the foot of the bed and said ''Mother, I'm going to get my things and get out of this house. Father hates me and I'm never coming back.''

Alberta was stood about eight feet away from Marvin when she noticed her husband stood at the door, holding the gun which Marvin had originally given him for protection and without saying a word, he aimed at Marvin and shot him. Marvin screamed and slid off the bed and slumped forward in a sitting position. Alberta screamed and ran out of the room. The bullet had perforated his lung, heart, diaphragm, liver, stomach and left kidney.

His father moved closer towards him and shot him again at point blank range. The bullet went into his left shoulder and exited out of his back. His father then turned around, went back to his room and placed the gun back under his pillow before sitting down on the bed.

Marvin's brother Frankie, who was planning to meet Dave Simmons that day so they could take Marvin to an addiction unit, along with his wife had heard gunshots. They both rushed to the house, Frankie found Marvin on the bedroom floor losing a lot of blood but still conscious. His wife, Irene went to Marvin Sr's room where she found him sat on the bed, staring into space. She was scared that he would carry on shooting so she asked him where the gun was. After she got no response she carefully looked around the room and found the gun under his pillow. She threw the gun out of the window and called the police and Dave Simmons.

''On the Sunday I got up and began getting dressed. I was getting ready to leave when the phone rang. It was Irene, Frankie's wife and she was saying 'Frankie needs you, get over here right away. Father has shot Marvin.'' - Dave Simmons.

Back in Marvin's bedroom Frankie was in tears as he held his brother in his arms. He said that Marvin's last words to him where ''I got what I wanted...I couldn't do it myself, so I had him do's good, I ran my race. There's no more left in me.''

The emergency services waited 20 minutes to get to Marvin because they didn't know at the time if Marvin Sr was still armed. When the police arrived, Marvin Sr was found sitting on the front porch outside the house where he was arrested.

Marvin's body was rushed to the California Hospital Medical Centre. At approximately 1:01 pm he was pronounced dead on arrival. Marvin was just hours away from his 45th birthday.

As soon as word had spread that Marvin was dead, members of the public who were in shock and grief, began to crowd around the house and some would leave flowers and tributes.

When Marvin Sr was arrested and informed that his son had died, his reaction had shocked the police.

''What shocked me, was that he seemed more concerned about what was going to happen to him than the fact his son was dead.'' - Detective McCahn.

(Marvin Gay Sr with a police officer. Photo credit:

At the police station, Marvin Sr pleaded that he had killed his son in self defence as he was scared that something was going to happen to him. He claimed that he did not know that the gun was fully loaded and believed that it contained pellets. 

Later, when he was placed in a jail cell he complained that his family had not been to visit him and wanted someone to bring him his favourite bathrobe as his cell was too cold. When asked if he loved Marvin he said ''Let's say I didn't dislike him.''

Alberta told a friend years earlier, ''My husband never wanted Marvin, and he never liked him. He used to say that he didn't think he was really his child. I told him that was nonsense. He knew Marvin was his, but for some reason he didn't love Marvin, and what's worse, he didn't want me to love Marvin either. Marvin wasn't very old before he understood that.''

During a medical examination and further tests, doctors discovered that Marvin Sr had a benign tumour in his pituitary gland. His lawyers would later use this information in court and claim that the tumour may have affected his actions when he killed his son. The judge overseeing the case ruled that Marvin Sr was competent to stand trial and that he was fully aware of what he had done. 

Details of Marvin's autopsy were presented to the court and examiners found that he had traces of PCP and cocaine in his system that would have been taken days before his death but were not active in his system on the day that he died. Pictures of Marvin Sr's bruises where his son had kicked and punched him were presented and the judge agreed to let Marvin Sr enter a plea bargain. On the 20th of September, 1984, he pleaded no contest to a charge of voluntary manslaughter. 

During the sentencing hearing two months later, Marvin Sr said: ''If I could bring him back, I would. I was afraid of him. I thought I was going to get hurt. I didn't know what was going to happen. I'm really sorry for everything that happened. I loved him. I wish he could step through this door right now. I'm paying the price now.''

Marvin Sr was given a six year suspended sentence and five years of probation for the murder of his son. Alberta divorced him after 49 years of marriage. He returned back to the house but was forced to leave due to health issues and took residence in a nursing home.

Four days after Marvin's death his funeral took place at the Hall of Liberty Chapel in the Forest lawn Memorial Park by which time, between 8,000 and 10,000 fans had paid their respects at his open casket. Alberta kissed Marvin's forehead and said a gentle prayer. Marvin was dressed in a gold and white military uniform, one of his favourite costumes from his final tour. Dick Gregory and Smokey Robinson spoke at his funeral, Stevie Wonder gave a musical tribute and his mother, ex wives and three children were all in attendance.

His mother pulled Gerard White aside during the service (Gerard was one of the bodyguard's on Marvin's final tour) and whispered to him ''That's one gun I wish you had never given to my son.''

(Marvin Gaye. Photo credit:

Marvin was cremated and some of his ashes were scattered by his children and Anna Gordy in the Pacific Ocean. The rest of his ashes were then kept by Anna and their adopted son Marvin III.

Due to Marvin not leaving a will, all of his estate went to his adopted son, Marvin III who was just 17 years old at the time. Marvin had various debts but these were soon sorted out over the next few years as royalties from his songs covered the debts.

Alberta passed away from bone cancer just three years after Marvin's death. Before she died, she founded the Marvin P. Gaye, Jr Memorial Foundation in dedication to her son to help people with drug and alcohol problems. She never got the chance to see the memorial opened.

In the final years of Marvin Sr's life he was moved to another nursing home in California. He later died of pneumonia, nine days before his 84th birthday.

Since Marvin's death he has continued to be a major influence and his music lives on decades later. He has posthumously been awarded Grammy Awards and been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The list of awards and honours is too many to mention but his contribution and mark that's been left on music has been legendary. People of all ages, all around the world know who Marvin Gaye is. Even to this day, up and coming artists will name-check him in their songs or sample his work.

Various attempts have been made to create a biographical film of Marvin's life but so far none have followed through. Recently, in 2018 it was announced that the rapper Dr. Dre was in talks to produce a biopic about Marvin but nothing else has been reported since.

It would be good to see a proper, respectful film made about Marvin as we've seen with the recent films based on Freddie Mercury and Elton John.

I never knew these four posts were going to be so long but there is just so much to cover about Marvin Gaye that I think I've only covered the half of it. I think I've managed to cover a lot about Marvin's career, what he went through and what happened after his death. His struggle for his father's love and acceptance was heartbreaking and it was clear that it had affected him his whole life. No matter what he achieved he knew that in the back of his mind his father was always there to put a dampener on his achievements. His father was a very narcissistic and hypocritical person who had no problems living off of Marvin's earnings despite frowning on his son's amazing achievements. Marvin has gone down as one of the greatest artists of all time and his father should have been proud. Even if Marvin only had one hit single, his father should have been proud.

I was told in the past that your relationships with your parents are the most important ones you will ever have and they reflect how you see the world. Marvin didn't realise how much people loved him, because of the rejection of his father who still took his money and negative experiences in the record industry, he thought that people didn't like him for him, that all they wanted was money from him. There's people in the world who listen to his music to this day and it helps them through hard times or lifts them up when they're down. His music has done what he set out for it to do, it moves people.

He wasn't an angel but he had a lot to deal with growing up and made some bad choices. One can only wonder what would have happened had Frankie and Dave Simmons had the opportunity to take Marvin to the addiction unit. He could have returned to Belgium again and recorded more music or tried his hand at acting? who knows what could have been.

His brother Frankie was the spitting image of him and he wrote about his brother in a book titled 'Marvin Gaye: My Brother'. Frankie sadly passed away in 2001 at the age of 60 due to complications following a heart attack. You can find Frankie's book here

Thank you as always if you've made it this far. I hope that you've learnt a bit more about Marvin and enjoyed reading my posts.

Here's some of Marvin's classics (some also feature Tammi Terrell & Kim Weston):

Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Marvin Gaye - Let's Get it On
Marvin Gaye - Sexual Healing
Marvin Gaye - I Want You
Marvin Gaye - Got To Give It Up
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
Marvin Gaye - Mercy Mercy Me
Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston - It Takes two
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - Ain't No Mountain High Enough
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - You're All I Need To Get By
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing

Further reading & sources:

Marvin Gaye: Biography & History
Marvin Gaye, Shot & Killed
Marvin Gaye: Wikipedia
Marvin Gay Sr: Wikipedia
Alberta Gay: Wikipedia
Sins Of The Father: The Independent
Marvin Gaye: Find A Grave Memorial
Marvin Gaye: The Grammys
Marvin Gaye: The Final 24
Tammi Terrell: Wikipedia

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  1. Tara (box5angel)5 August 2023 at 14:24

    Thanks for the time and research you put into the life and death of Marvin Gaye. Some things I knew and a lot I didn’t. I remember seeing the news stories on his death at the time. It was a shock to all of us. Died so young and tragically. One thing that I didn’t know was that Tammi Terrell died from a brain tumor. I’ve always heard it was suicide. I don’t know where that came from and maybe I’m getting her mixed up with someone else but it’s good to know the truth. And her life was cut so short too. Didn’t realize she was only 24. So sad.