The Tragic Life & Death Of Marvin Gaye | Part Three

(Marvin Gaye. Photo credit:

Continued from part two...

In Belgium, Marvin had managed to turn things around, he started eating healthily, attended a local church, did regular exercise and stopped taking drugs. He was in the best shape physically and mentally than he had been in a long time and with this his confidence had increased. He started to feel passionate about making music again and began writing and recording music. He was itching to do a live tour again and decided that he would do some live shows in England and Ostend in the months of June and July in 1981. This was a mini tour to see how audiences would respond and was called the ''Heavy Love Affair'' tour. His attorney later said that Marvin's period in Belgium was ''the best thing that ever happened to him.''

Word got around the industry that Marvin was planning a comeback and exit from Motown and record companies were desperate to sign him up. Marvin eventually signed with CBS Records after they had negotiated his release from Motown. The details of his new contract were kept private in case of the negative effect it would have on Marvin's settlement with creditors from the IRS. 

Marvin worked on his new album titled ''Midnight Love'' and released ''Sexual Healing'' as the first single on the 30th of September 1982. The song had been written and recorded in his apartment in Belgium. The song was a massive success, spending 10 weeks at No 1 on the Hot Black Singles chart. It became one of the biggest selling singles of the 1980s and sold over two million copies in the US alone. Marvin's comeback was phenomenal and he was at the top of his game again.

His album ''Midnight Love'' was a success all over the world and managed to sell over six million copies worldwide with three million sold in the US alone. He won two Grammy Awards for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Instrumental Performance for ''Sexual Healing''. He also had a Grammy nomination for Best Rhythm & Blues Song.

In 1982, he told NME magazine ''I don't make music for pleasure. I did when I was a younger artist, but I don't today. I record so that I can feed people what they need, what they feel. Hopefully, I record so that I can help someone overcome a bad time.''

In February of 1983 he had the honour of singing the American national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game at The Forum in Inglewood, California. He also made an appearance on the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever special. He made his third and final TV appearance on Soul Train. 

On the 18th of April 1983, Marvin kicked off his final concert tour which was plagued with problems from the start. One of his road crew members had committed suicide by hanging himself from a shower curtain rod whilst in New Jersey.

In a month before rehearsals for the show, Marvin had checked into a San Francisco hotel and sent his valet out to buy a tape deck and copies of his albums because he had forgotten the lyrics to his songs.

''He told me he couldn't remember all the lyrics so every morning of everyday I would put Marvin's stuff on the ghetto-blaster and let him re-learn them.'' - George, Marvin's Valet. 

 He was at the top of his career and should have been having the time of his life but instead he had fallen into a deep depression and started using cocaine again. His addiction had begun to take over his life and he was in a state of constant paranoia and suffering from delusions. It's unknown what triggered this episode in Marvin's life as everything seemed to be going fantastic for him career-wise. Some suspect it was all too much, the pressure and the fame. The flashbacks to his childhood would not have helped either. He tried to build bridges with his father so many times but it always came to nothing. He offered his father to come along to previous performances he had done but he would always refuse. It must have been difficult for him to know that although his father never praised him or accepted his career, that he was continuing to live off of the money that Marvin was working hard to make. 

Every night on the tour, Marvin was sweating profusely on stage and there would be nights where he would strip off down to his underwear and dance about in a crazy manner. The membranes inside his nose were so badly damaged from his heavy cocaine use that he couldn't sleep in an air-conditioned room without a vapouriser. He would hear voices in his head telling him his life was in danger and he smashed up a TV in his hotel room after he was convinced that it was sending him messages. He also tore out the wiring in the TV as he was convinced it had been bugged.

His bodyguards had to stay in rooms at either side of him and Marvin would call them at various hours of the night to inspect his room, to make sure that doors were locked and windows were securely closed. After the bodyguards had reassured him, he would call them a short time later and have them repeat the same inspection again.

One night he called his bodyguard and told him to bring his sub-machine gun because Satan was in his room. The bodyguard opened the door to find Marvin huddled on the bed with a towel wrapped around his head with 666 written on pieces of paper stuck to his face. 

The bodyguards were used to this behaviour from Marvin and before the tour had even begun, Marvin would tell them endless stories about him being stalked and that someone was trying to kill him. He told them that he had visions that someone was going to shoot him whilst he was on stage and he insisted on wearing a bulletproof vest at certain times and to have guns for protection.

He was also paranoid that someone was trying to poison his food. At one of his shows he was convinced that his ex-wife's father had hired the mafia to assassinate him and insisted that 75 police officers attended his show to protect him. His sister Sweetsie was brought along on the tour and her job was to bring Marvin bottles of water whilst he was on stage as he didn't trust anyone else. 

His brother Frankie joined the tour along with his old friend Dave Simmons. Marvin had Dave stand at the side of the stage during his performances to watch out for potential gunmen. Marvin had a Baptist preacher who would lead prayer before each show. 

''He was getting in worse shape physically every night and it became harder and harder to carry on. Then there were the constant stories that someone was trying to kill him. It was like a mad B movie. He would stay in his room all the time, take the elevator up to different floors and leave by back stairways. Whenever we came back at night, we'd have to drive around the hotel several times before going in.'' - Dave Simmons. 

As he was failing to maintain payments to his ex-wife and would fail to attend court appearances, threats were made which filtered back to Marvin and made him even more in fear for his life.

Marvin believed that if the people who were trying to kill him couldn't get to him, they would possibly try to kill his family. He arranged for one of his bodyguards to take a gun over to his parents house. His father had no experience with guns but agreed to keep it in the house for protection should it be needed and hid it under his pillow in his bedroom. 

With Marvin's cocaine consumption and paranoia out of control, his bodyguard contacted Civil Rights Leader Dick Gregory, who was also a leading nutritional expert and asked him to help Marvin. The plan was that he would collect him and have him detoxified on a farm in Massachusetts but when Marvin was informed of the plan, he refused to leave his hotel room.

Surprisingly, his ex-wife Jan came on the tour for some of the dates, even thought she was in a constant battle with him over money. They still continued to have a sexual relationship on and off and they would also take drugs together.

During one of their arguments during the tour, Jan had collapsed with severe heart palpitations due to her heavy drug use. Marvin also accused her of taking a shine to one of his band members.

''Marvin was sitting there cleaning his nose out because it was so wrecked with cocaine. In the middle of this argument he took this pot of hot water he was using and threw it over me. Gerard White, his bodyguard, then physically picked me up and put me outside the hotel. I had no airline ticket, no money, no nothing. I never saw Marvin alive again.'' - Jan, Marvin's ex-wife. 

Marvin claimed that he felt so ill after the argument that he cancelled the next two shows and checked himself into a private hospital in Florida, suffering from ''exhaustion'' and ''dehydration''.

The last show of the tour took place in California at the Universal Amphitheatre. Marvin decided to move back into his parent's house because his mother was recovering from kidney surgery and his father had left her to go on a trip. His two sisters originally lived in the house but they soon moved out when their father returned in October and the arguments between Marvin and their father became unbearable. 

Marvin's brother Frankie and his wife, Irene, lived next door in the guest house. When his father returned, Marvin was furious that he hadn't been looking after his mother. Things were tense as always between the pair and the arguments were a daily occurrence. Marvin preferred to stay in his bedroom and his parents had their own separate bedrooms at either side of his. 

Continued in part four....

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