HIS LIFE AND TRAGIC DEATH
In the abstract, the details of Marvin Gaye's death read like a Biblical parable: Man hollers at wife. Son, defending mother, hollers back at father. Father hollers at son. Son smites father. Father kills son.
But the devil is in the details.
The slaying, 20 years ago this spring, was the climax of a long-festering, pathological relationship between the troubled, drug-addled soul singer and his oddball father.
Their relationship featured violence, competition, humiliation, rancor and hate. They had argued and fought most of their lives, perhaps because they were too much alike to ever hope to get along.
Each was deeply conflicted.
Marvin Sr. was a terminally out-of-work fundamentalist preacher who ranted against the sins of indulgence. Yet he was an avid consumer of vodka and a zealous cross-dresser.
Like his dad, Marvin Jr. was a contradictory character, made up of equal parts hubris and self-loathing, boundless egomania and debilitating insecurities.
He consumed prodigious amounts of cocaine and as a result spent his life in debt, despite earning millions.
"How much have I spent in toot over the years?" Gaye mused a few years before his death. "I don't want to know... Enough to certify me as a fool. You'd have to call me a drug addict and a sex freak."
True, sex was another of Gay's singular contradictions.
Marketed as Motown's lover man, he was a misogynist who beat the women he professed to loveâ€”a trait he inherited from his father. He sang ballads and duets about soulful romance, yet forced his lovers into degrading and kinky acts that satisfied his sadism and voyeurism.
"The dark side of life and the dark side of the mind really fascinated him," Janice Hunter, Gaye's second wife, told biographer Steve Turner. "There was stuff that I can't even talk about that just went so deep, so dark and so bizarre... Forbidden, dangerous, scary, off-the-wall ways of thinking and behaving."
Gaye barred Hunter from pursuing her dream of becoming a singer.
"I'm the last of the great chauvinists," he told David Ritz, another biographer. "I like to see women serve meâ€”and that's that. In Jan's case, serving me meant feeding my fantasiesâ€”my evil fantasies."
Gaye was a chronic masturbator and connoisseur of pornography. He struggled with fear of flying, stage fright, impotence and other forms of sexual dysfunction, paranoia, irrational jealousies and homophobia.
He was envious of men who sang in lower registers than he could because he feared his voice would seem effeminate by comparison. Growing up, kids teased him about his "sissy" father, Marvin Pentz Gay Sr. Marvin Jr. added the "e" to his stage name as a teenager.
At his father's insistence, Marvin Jr. spent the first third of his life suppressing all urges to indulge in secular vices. Once freed of his father's rule, he spent the final two-thirds of his life indulging every vice that struck his fancy.
Yes, Marvin Sr. shot and killed Marvin Jr. on April 1, 1984. But their story is much more than a "domestic dispute," as old school cops might call it.
Pictured: Top: Marvin Gaye Jr., 1983 performance
Bottom: Janice Gaye
Marvin Gay Sr. was born in 1914, the third of 13 children of poor farm parents in Jessamine County, Kentucky, south of Lexington. It was an abusive household, with father George Gay frequently beating his wife, Mamie.
"We were all frightened of him," Marvin Sr.'s brother, Howard Gay, told Travis Hunter, author of Trouble Man. "When you're 5 or 6 years old you don't know what to do when your mother is being beaten and there's hollerin' and cryin' going on."
After failing to scratch out a farm living, George Gay moved his brood to Lexington in 1919. A few years later, Mamie Gay began attending a storefront church in the city affiliated with a religious sect with a comically long name: The House of God, The Holy Church of The Living God, The Pillar And The Ground of The Truth, The House of Prayer for All People.
When Mamie Gay took up the faith, her son Marvin followed and became the family's enthusiastic believer. Many believe Marvin Jr.'s troubles had psychological roots in both family violence and this peculiar fringe faith.
The House of God, founded by R.A.R. Johnson, mixes elements of Orthodox Judaism with Pentecostal Christianity. Adherents maintain Saturday Sabbath and observe Old Testament prohibitions against pork and shellfish. They ignore Christmas but stock up on matzos for Passover.
The sect's leader, the "Chief Apostle", wears a miter hat adorned with a Star of David. Women attend services wearing all-white clothing. During services, congregants practice "tarrying", repeating the phrase "Thank you, Jesus" as a mantra until the Holy Spirit visits and sets them speaking in tongues.
In 1934, Marvin Sr. moved to Washington, D.C., as a House of God preacher. There he met Alberta Cooper. Born near Rocky Mount, N.C., she had been shipped north to avoid a hometown scandal when she turned up pregnant.
Marvin Gay married Alberta in July 1935, but he refused to raise her love child, and the infant was turned over to a sister.
Marvin and Alberta had four children: Jeanne, in 1937; Marvin Jr., on April 2, 1939; Frankie, in 1942, and Zeola, known as Sweetsie, in 1945.
Marvin Sr. led a storefront church congregation, although the faith's tiny following could not support its preacher. The Gay family lived in subsidized housing and survived on Alberta's income as a maid.
In 1950, Marvin Sr. was a candidate for Chief Apostle of the House of God. When the job went to another man, Gay abandoned the church.
He worked sporadically part-time as a postal clerk and for Western Union in Washington, but he would never hold another full-time job. Jeanne Gay estimated her father worked just three years cumulatively after leaving the church.
Pictured: Trouble Man
His endless idle time allowed Marvin Gay Sr. to focus on his children.
Although he had given up the House of God, he pressed its many prohibitions on his family. He forbade athletics, dancing, movies, television and popular music. His daughters were not allowed to wear sleeveless dresses, nylons, lipstick, nail polish or open-toed shoes.
He forced his children to observe an extended Sabbath, from Friday afternoon until midday Sunday. He drilled them on Biblical passages and administered beatings for incorrect answers.
All four Gay children were bed-wetters, and this, too, prompted beatings.
Pictured: Cover of Divided Soul by David Ritz
"Living with father was something like living with a king, a very peculiar, changeable, cruel and all-powerful king," Marvin Gaye told biographer Ritz. "You were supposed to tip-toe around his moods. You were supposed to do anything to win his favor. I never did. Even though winning his love was the ultimate goal of my childhood, I defied him. I hated his attitude... If it wasn't for mother, who was always there to console me and praise my singing, I think I would have been one of those child suicides you read about in the papers."
Marvin Jr. bore the brunt of the abuse. He could be provoked for the most picayune offensesâ€”when he used his hairbrush or came home 15 minutes late from school.
Alberta Gay said, "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 worse, he didn't want me to love Marvin either. Marvin wasn't very old before he understood that."
Jeanne Gay said, "From the time he was 7 until he became a teenager, Marvin's life at home consisted of a series of brutal whippings."
"It wasn't simply that my father beat me, though that was bad enough," Gaye said. "He'd say, 'Boy, you're going to get a whipping.' Then he'd tell me to take off my clothes and send me to the bedroom... It wouldn't have been so awful if he had hit me right away. But father liked mind games. He'd play with me. He'd make me wait an hour, or even more, all the while jangling his belt buckle loud enough so I could hear... When he finally struck me, I knewâ€”children know these thingsâ€”that something inside him was enjoying the whole thing."
Marvin Sr. was the antithesis of the macho stereotype of an abusive man. He was trim and effeminate and often dressed in women's blouses and wigs.
As Marvin Jr. told Ritz, "My father likes to wear women's clothing... To tell you the truth, I have the same fascination with women's clothes. In my case, that has nothing to do with any attraction for men. Sexually, men don't interest me. But seeing myself as a woman is something that intrigues me. It's also something I fear. I indulge myself only at the most discreet and intimate moments. Afterward I must bear the guilt and shame for weeks."
The writer asked Alberta whether her husband was homosexual.
"I'm not certain," she said. "I do know that five of his siblings were homosexual. And it's true that he liked soft clothing... He liked to wear my panties, my shoes, my gowns, even my nylon hose."
Pictured: Top..Marvin Gaye & Alberta (his mother)
Bottom.. Marvin Gaye, young
Music and the Military
As a pre-teen, Marvin Jr. began to take refuge from his father at a piano that sat in the family's living room. (Marvin Sr. was a passable self-taught pianist.) The father encouraged Marvin to play, as long as he stuck with religious music.
Marvin Jr. proved to be a natural musician. He would never learn to read music, but he could play any tune by ear, including the blues and popular ballads when his father was away.
At Cardozo High School, Marvin Jr. fell in with a clique of musically talented teens, and they formed a combo, the D.C. Tones. Marvin played piano and drums; no one knew he could sing.
The boys would take a bus to the Howard Theater and buy cheap seats to see touring rhythm and blues artists like James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and Little Willie John.
Secretly, Marvin favored the style of white crooners like Dean Martin, Perry Como and Frank Sinatra. His pals learned he could sing one day when they caught him delivering a dead-on copy of Johnnie Ray's "Cry."
His growing interest in secular music led to new conflicts at home, and by age 18 the son had had enough. He dropped out of 11th grade and joined the Air Force. But he soon learned that joining the military to escape a harsh authority figure was no solution, especially when he found himself peeling potatoes, not flying jet airplanes as he had hoped.
As he put it, "I was completely unprepared and found it impossible to take orders from pompous *******s with nothing better to do than humiliate me."
He was in the Air Force just long enough to lose his virginity to a hooker. He feigned mental illness and got an honorable discharge, with this proviso: "Marvin Gaye cannot adjust to regimentation and authority."
Marquees and Moonglows
Doo-wop was the rage when Marvin returned to Washington, and the D.C. Tones retooled as the Marquees, a vocal harmony group with surname-tweaked Marvin Gaye as lead tenor.
The group played teen gigs, sock hops and battles of the bands. At one show they caught the eye of Bo Diddley, a Washington-based musician who was gaining a national reputation with his unique percussive guitar sound.
Diddley was enthused by the Marquees' smooth vocals, and he offered to produce their first record, a two-sided single of "Hey Little School Girl" and "Wyatt Earp" recorded in New York with Diddley's backup band.
In 1958 Diddley was doing a show with the Moonglows, a Chicago-based Chess Records act that had a series of R&B hits, including "Sincerely." Harvey Fuqua, the leader, mentioned he was auditioning for a new lead tenor.
Diddley encouraged Fuqua to consider Gaye. Fuqua listened to the Marquees on his next trip through Washington and promptly hired Gaye and his bandmates to replace the Moonglows.
Gaye left Washington for Chicago, where he sang backup on Chess records for Etta James and Chuck Berry when he wasn't touring with the Moonglows. He sang lead on one minor Moonglows hit, "Mama Loochie."
Meanwhile, Fuqua, an astute businessman, was hip to a burgeoning sound in Detroit that he reckoned might supplant doo-wop. Fuqua was acquainted with key figures in that scene, the Gordy family, with parents who had prospered in the nightclub and real estate businesses.
In 1960 Fuqua took Marvin Gaye, his musical prodigy, to Detroit to meet the Gordys and their ambitious children.
Pictured: Top..Bo Diddley
Berry Gordy Jr., a high school dropout, had reinvented himself several times. He was a Korean War Veteran, an ex-prize fighter, an ex-autoworker, a record-store owner and a successful songwriter.
Gordy had a knack for blending rock 'n' roll, gospel, and rhythm and blues into catchy tunesâ€”black dance music that white kids would buy, as he famously put it. He used proceeds from "Lonely Teardrops," which he cowrote for Jackie Wilson, to form the Motown Record Corp., whose labels included Anna Records, named for his sister, Anna Gordy.
The Gordys surrounded themselves with Detroit's best musicians, songwriters and producers, and Motown began cranking out records at a studio called Hitsville, USA. Its first hit, "Shop Around," recorded by the Miracles and written by Gordy and Smokey Robinson, came in 1961.
Marvin Gaye insinuated himself into Motown soon after he arrived in Detroit. Yes, Berry Gordy recognized Gaye as a talent. But the 20-year-old earned his position as Prince of Motown when Anna Gordy, 37, fell in love with him. They were married in January 1961.
Gaye played cowrote, played percussion and sang backup on a number of Motown hits. But he fashioned himself a jazz balladeer, a la Nat King Cole, and his signature look included a crew neck shirt and cardigan sweater, like a black Perry Como.
Gaye's first Motown LP, "The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye," included covers of "My Funny Valentine," "Love for Sale" and "How High the Moon." It flopped. On the early Motown Revue bus tours, he sang "What Kind of Fool Am I" and "Days of Wine and Roses" while the audience sat on its hands.
In 1962 Gordy convinced Gaye to record his first R&B-styled tune, "Stubborn Kind Of Fellow." It became a top 10 hit. Over a 10-month period, he used that same soulful style of screams and high-register singing on a series of hits, including "Hitch Hike," "Pride and Joy" and "Can I Get a Witness."
Yet Gaye continued to flog the ballad material. A 1964 album of ballads included covers of "I'll Be Around" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face." A 1965 Cole tribute record included "Ramblin' Rose" and "Mona Lisa." A 1965 recording of Broadway show tunes included "People" and "Hello Dolly."
Those LPs gathered dust while his R&B recordings flew off record store shelves. Gaye finally gave in.
In 1964 he began a remarkable six-year stretch that kept him at the top of radio playlists with tunes such as "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," "I'll Be Doggone," "Ain't That Peculiar" and "It Takes Two" (with Kim Weston).
In '67 and '68 he teamed with Tammi Terrell, a well-traveled R&B backup singer, for a stunning run of hits: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Your Precious Love," "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By."
In October 1968 he had his biggest hit with a cover of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," which, remarkably, had been a Top 5 record the year before for Gladys Knight. He followed that with "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" and "That's the Way Love Is."
By 1970, Gaye was fed up with what he called "silly love songs." Informed by his brother's experiences in Vietnam and by social unrest in America, Gaye went to work on an LP that would become his seminal musical statement.
In May 1971 Motown released Gaye's "What's Going On," a complex concept album whose topics included war, the ecology, racism, poverty, faith and political and social corruption. Its hit singles were "What's Going On," "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues."
As author Ben Edmonds wrote, "Marvin's new kind of soul music came from the soul itself. Marvin's question 'What's going on?' was to black music what Bob Dylan's 'How does it feel?' had been to rock 'n' roll a half-decade earlier."
Gaye signed a $1 million record deal with Motown. He gave his father a gift of a new Cadillac.
A writer asked whether the father was grateful.
Gaye said dryly, "Not especially."
Pictured: Top..Berry Gordy Jr.
Bottom..Anna Gordy Gaye
"What's Going On" earned the artist unprecedented levels of acclaim, including a key to the city of Washington and a national award from the NAACP.
Marvin Gaye was on top of the musical world. But that was not high enough for him.
Gaye's ego swelled. He went so far as to place himself in God's company in an interview with Time magazine.
"God and I travel together with righteousness and goodness," he said. "If people want to follow along, they can."
He told Crawdaddy magazine, "I don't compare myself to Beethoven. I must make that clear. I just think I'm capable of all he was capable of. I think the only thing between me and Beethoven is time. Beethoven had it from the beginning. I'm acquiring it. It's gonna take me time because I don't have formal training."
He bragged he was working on a "two-movement symphony" (his classical masterwork would never materialize).
After writing music for "Trouble Man," a blaxploitation film, Gaye told biographer Ritz, "No doubt I could have been a Hollywood star, but it was something I consciously rejected. Not that I didn't want it. I most certainly did. I just didn't have the fortitude to play the Hollywood game and put my ass out there like a piece of meat."
Perhaps the most curious element of Marvin Gaye's needy personality concerned his delusions of grandeur in athletics.
In Detroit, he had befriended Mel Farr and Lem Barney, stars of the Lions NFL team. Gaye decided that he, too, could be a football star, and he announced that he would try out for the Lions as a wide receiverâ€”never mind that he was skinny, aging and unskilled.
The Lions played along for the publicity until it became clear that Gaye was serious. The team backed out after considering the potential legal liability.
By all accounts, Gaye was no better than a middling athlete. Yet a 1970s concert program included this bizarre bio blurb:
"Marvin Gaye is a brilliant all-around athlete. He could have been outstanding as a swimmer, sprinter, high jumper, baseball player, football player or basketball player. He competes on a regular basis against name performers in all these sports."
The bio compared Gaye's swimming abilities to Mark Spitz, the best swimmer in the world in that era.
Gaye played golf in the 1960s with a Motown clique that included Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy Jr., both accomplished golfers. The others said Gaye always finished last in his foursomeâ€”even though he cheated.
Pictured: Top..Mobbed By Fans
Bottom..Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrelle
Let's Get It On
While Gaye had built a musical persona as the ultimate lover, his real love life was a wreck.
His April-November marriage to Anna Gordy had been tempestuous from the start and included physical violence.
Marvin said, "We came to blows on more than one occasion, and I'm going to tell you something: Anna could hold her own."
The couple had failed to conceive a child so in 1965 had faked a pregnancy, with Anna wearing maternity clothes and Marvin bragging about the upcoming birth. On her due date they adopted a son they named Marvin III.
The ruse was planned by Marvin, apparently shamed by the lack of manliness that adoption might imply.
Anna and Marvin split up frequently, and both had many lovers during their decade together. Marvin had begun indulging himself in pornography and had a recurring sexual fantasy about a promiscuous young woman who took on many lovers while he watched.
According to Motown legend, Marvin was in the studio recording the title track to his 1973 album, "Let's Get It On," when a teenager named Janice Hunter walked into the control room. Janice was an aspiring singer, and she had begged her father, a co-producer of the record, to introduce her to Gaye.
Marvin said it was lust at first sight. Hunter, he said, was "the figure in my fantasy come to life." He said he recorded "Let's Get It On" while looking in young Hunter's eyes.
And they got it on.
Although he was 33 and Janice 16, the girl's mother "encouraged the relationship," Gaye said.
The lovers holed up in a mountaintop cabin in Topanga Canyon, California. She soon was pregnant, and Nona Gaye arrived in September 1974.
"My first feeling was one of joy and happiness," Gaye said. "Naturally, still being married to Anna, things were a little complicated. But I've learned over the years that sometimes complications are best handled when they're ignored."
Another child, Frankie, was born 14 months later.
Anna and Marvin divorced in 1977, and he married Janice months later. By then, Marvin was using Janice as his voyeurism fantasy dream lover.
Oddly, the singer shared details about his kinky sex life with his mother, Alberta. She said Marvin's sexuality had been informed by Anna Gordy Gaye.
"Anna taught Marvin certain tricksâ€”tricks with her body, sex tricksâ€”that Marvin taught Jan," Alberta told writer Ritz.
As with Anna, Marvin's relationship with Janice included physical violence that some view as a sign of self-loathing. As writer Robert Christgau put it, Gaye "found himself despising women for doing the kinky things he forced them to do."
Before she was 21, Janice had been shooed into affairs with a number of singers, including Frankie Beverly, Rick James and Teddy Pendergrass.
Jeanne Gay said, "Marvin didn't just ask Jan to fool around, but he'd become angry at her when she refused to obey and wouldn't tell him the stories of the affairs he wanted her to have."
His mother added, "He wanted Janice to go with other men. Then he'd suffer with the consequences. He wanted to suffer."
Pictured: Top..What's Going On by Ben Edmonds
Bottom..Marvin Gaye, Janice and his children
The World Closes In
By 1973, Gaye's behavior had grown increasingly erratic.
He avoided studio work, missed concert dates and became reclusive.
Once, after an argument with Anna, Gaye barricaded himself in an apartment with a gun, threatening to kill himself or anyone who walked through the door. Berry Gordy Sr., his father-in-law, talked him out of violence.
But Gaye's intimates worried about the possibility of suicide, especially when he was under the influence of narcotics.
Gaye said he first used drugs in 1960 while on the Motown Revue bus tour. He had an affair with a "shake dancer" in the show known as Titty Tassel Toni, and she turned him on to marijuana.
Pot is "a quick giggle," Gaye told Ritz. "But coke was a different deal. Blow is what really let me fly. There were moments when I really thought I was gone. I'm talking about timesâ€”really down timesâ€”when I snorted up so much toot I was convinced I'd be dead within minutes. I rather liked the idea of there being nothing left of me but my music."
But cocaine cost money, especially in the quantities he consumed. And money had become an increasing source of strife for Gaye.
He had two sources of income: touring and record royalties.
Gaye hated to tour. It was physically demanding, partly due to his drug use. ("I do enough drugs in my normal life," he said, "but on the road the quantity triples.") He had persistent performance anxiety throughout his career, and he feared flying.
Often, he dragged his mother along on tour for support. He said, "If mother hadn't traveled with me, I'd never have had the nerve to do live performances again."
During the 1970s, he toured only to pay off mounting debtsâ€”including a $2 million tax bill for failing to give the government its share of record advances.
A divorce lawsuit filed by Anna brought new financial pressures after a judge ordered him to pay her $5,500 per month in the interim before settlement.
Gaye was earning $20,000 a month in 1975, according to biographer Steve Turner, and his production company earned a profit of $1.2 million that year from the singer's national tour.
Yet Gaye could not come up with $5,500 a month for his wife and adopted son because he was blowing his cash on cocaine and other indulgences.
He bought his parents a neo-Tudor mansion in L.A.'s Crenshaw district. He bought himself a 5-acre estate in Hidden Hills, complete with a full-sized basketball court and elaborate horse stables, even though he had no interest in horses. He bought an interest in the New Orleans Jazz NBA franchise.
He bought oceanfront property in Jamaica. He bought 14 cars, including a Rolls Royce, a Jaguar and several Mercedes Benzes. He bought a speedboat, a small yacht, an RV and a couple of tractors.
He bought financial interests in a series of professional boxersâ€”paying their expenses in anticipation of future earnings. None ever panned out.
He built an elaborate recording studio on Sunset Boulevard in L.A., complete with a suite with a king-size waterbed and a hot tub large enough to accommodate a harem.
After seeking $1 million, Anna Gordy Gaye agreed to settle the divorce for a lump-sum payment of $600,000, money that Marvin expected to earn by recording an album for that single purpose.
The 1978 record, cattily entitled "Here, My Dear," was a critical and commercial flop, with its self-centered themes and titles such as "Anger" and "You Can Leave, but It's Going to Cost You," a reference to Anna's warning that the "young girl" Hunter would cost Gaye a fortune.
But the payment to Anna resolved only one small part of his debt woes.
An ex-manager claimed Gaye owed him $2 million. Four musicians had successfully sued Gaye for $200,000 in back pay, and California authorities shuttered his studio for nonpayment of taxes.
His last gasp at regaining financial footing came on September 28, 1979, when a fighter he owned, Andy Price, took on welterweight champion Sugar Ray Leonard.
"If Price could win, I was looking at millions of dollars in future revenues," Gaye said. "With one blow I could... clean up my whole financial mess."
Leonard knocked out Gaye's man in the first round.
To The Beach
A few weeks later, Gaye fled to Hawaii for what he later called "one long nervous breakdown." For a time, he lived in a van on the beach.
When he ran out of money, he begged his mother to hock diamonds he had given her and send him the cash for toot. He also begged money from pals Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Wally (Famous) Amos, the cookiemaker.
"I'd given up," he told Ritz. "The problems were too big for me. I just wanted to be left alone to blow my brains away with high-octane toot. It would be a slow but relatively pleasant death, certainly less messy than a gun."
He said at one point he snorted an ounce of coke in an hour, then called his mother to say goodbye, certain he would die of an overdose. He didn't.
Janice, his newly estranged second wife, went to try to bring Gaye down to earth. But their reunion became another bout of physical abuse, this time featuring a knife, which he held at her heart.
Gaye said, "I wanted to kill her. I almost did. I wanted to kill myself, but I didn't have the guts."
After nine months, he returned to L.A. to find his financial problems intact. He reluctantly agreed to a concert tour of Europe in 1981, then stayed abroad three years to avoid the IRS back home.
He took up with Eugenie Vis, a blonde groupie he bedded after a concert in Amsterdam.
Vis had expected romantic lovemaking from the sex-symbol singer. Instead, she said, Gaye made love "without any feelings of warmth," then went impotent when she cried over his lack of romance.
Vis told author Turner that Gaye introduced her to group sex and voyeurism.
She said, "He liked to be the master. He also liked to experiment. Once he had a whip and he played with it. Another time he asked me to sleep with some other women because he wanted to see that, but he never hurt me or let himself get out of control."
While he was abroad, Motown released its final Gaye recording of new material, "In Our Lifetime." The company had pressured him to produce the record for years, but Gaye had dallied. The label finally issued the record without the singer's approval, and he was furious.
"I hadn't completed it," he said. "Can you imagine saying to an artist, say Picasso, you're been fooling with this picture long enough?"
His relationship with Motown was irreparably damaged, and in 1982 the label sold his contract to CBS Records.
Gaye had begun freebasing cocaine in Europe. His indulgent lifestyle had become so over the top that he openly smoked the drug during a series of interviews he gave to promote the new Motown record.
During an interview with Blues and Soul magazine, a writer asked Gaye how he wished to be remembered. He replied, "As one of, if not the greatest, artist to walk the face of the earth."
He gave another interview at his apartment in Ostend, Belgium, to David Ritz, an old acquaintance with whom Gaye had discussed writing a book.
Gaye's apartment was littered with sadomasochistic magazines and other twisted pornography. The writer suggested Gaye needed "sexual healing."
Ritz wrote, "It was my way of suggesting what I believed he needed, a reconciliation of the confusion, fostered in childhood, between pleasure and pain."
But the advice struck Gaye as a good hook for a song title. In a lucid moment he scrawled out lyrics and adapted them to a slow, reggae-style instrumental track composed by keyboardist Odell Brown, one of his sidemen.
CBS rushed "Sexual Healing" out as a single, and it became the best-selling soul hit since the dawn of disco. A month later, the company released the tune on a rushed LP, "Midnight Love."
In a series of interviews, Marvin Gaye posed as a master of love, romance and sex. He told the Los Angeles Times people should follow his lead. He said, "What they need is to live out their sexual fantasies. Everybody would be happier and less crazy if they could do what they wanted to sexually."
Despite whispers about Gaye's fragile psyche and coke addiction, CBS scrambled together a concert tour to capitalize on the success of his new single.
The Sexual Healing Tour opened in San Diego on April 18 and was scheduled to conclude August 14. Few expected him to make it through the dates.
As one sideman told Ritz, "There was more coke on that tour than on any tour in the history of entertainment."
As the tour wore on, Gaye's behavior became increasingly bizarre.
He became ever more obsessed by sex. He invited groups of five or six men and women to have sex in his room while he watched. On stage, he began doing a striptease to his bikini briefs during the finale, "Sexual Healing."
Meanwhile, he was being overwhelmed by paranoia. He hired a phalanx of bodyguards and wore a bulletproof vest except when on stage. He ordered sentries to guard his hotel room doors.
He insisted that a hit man had been hired to kill him, and he worried that he was being secretly poisoned.
During a tour stop in Boston, reporters sat slack-jawed during a press conference as Gaye revealed that he had hired famed attorney F. Lee Bailey to determine how, why and by whom he had been poisoned during his tour. He added that an antidote potion concocted by activist comedian **** Gregory had saved his life.
Gaye survived the tour, in a fashion, then crawled home to recuperate at the Crenshaw district home in L.A. he had bought for his parents.
His mother said, "When the tour was over, I never saw Marvin in such bad shape. He was exhausted. He should have checked into a hospital... The people around him should have forced him to go, but they did whatever he wanted. That's the way it had always been."
For the ensuing nine months, the Gay/Gaye house was a human zoo.
Marvin Sr., Alberta and Marvin Jr. slept in three adjoining second-story bedrooms. (The couple hadn't been in the same bed together for 10 years.) Marvin's brother, Frankie, and his wife lived in an adjacent guest apartment.
Most of the time, Marvin Sr. holed up in his room, swigging vodka, while Marvin Jr. holed up in his room, leering at porno videotapes and magazines and freebasing cocaineâ€”often while his mother sat beside him wringing her hands.
She said she would cry, and Marvin would say, "Mother, this is the last time, I promise."
Marvin Jr. would place a phone call, and men would show up to deliver drugs. Women would come, as well, including groupies and his ex-wives, Anna and Janice, with whom he rekindled sexual relationships. He also beat a number of the women visitors, including Janice.
Still paranoid, Marvin Jr. paid to install an elaborate, expensive security and surveillance system.
Marvin hadn't lived in the same house with his father in a quarter-century. Besides the childhood baggage and conflicts over the drug use, sex and porn, two other issues festered in the edgy relationship between them.
Alberta Gay had had kidney surgery in the fall of 1983. Marvin Sr. had gone back to Washington for unspecified purposes, and he refused to return to California to support his wife during her surgery.
Also, Marvin Jr. had learned that his father had sold the family house in Washington during his stay there. He believed his mother was owed half that money, but Marvin Sr. refused to acknowledge that he had sold the property.
Although the men managed to avoid one another most of the time, the physical tension was palpableâ€”so much so that Marvin Sr. told his daughter Jeanne, "If he touches me I'll kill him."
The Final Fight
In his paranoia, Marvin Jr. had begun to stockpile guns when he returned home from the Sexual Healing Tour. He kept a cheap machine gun in his bedroom at one point until his mother insisted that he get rid of it.
For reasons not entirely clear, Marvin gave his father a handgun, an unregistered .38-caliber Smith & Wesson, at Christmas time in 1983.
On the night of March 31, 1984, Marvin Sr. was angered because he was unable to find a document concerning an insurance policy. He stormed around the house and yelled at Alberta, whom he blamed for losing the document.
He was still angry when he awoke the next morning, Sunday, April 1, the day before Marvin Jr.'s 45th birthday.
At about 11 a.m., Marvin Sr. hollered up the stairs at his wife, who was in Marvin Jr.'s bedroom. The son went to the top of the stairs and hollered back that he should speak to Alberta's face if he had something to say.
The father hurried up the steps and entered his son's room. Marvin Jr. leaped up off the bed and pushed his 70-year-old father out into the hallway, knocking him down and kicking him.
Alberta interceded and the men separated. Marvin Jr. returned to his bed.
The father got up and went down the hall to his own bedroom. After a few moments, he returned to Marvin Jr.'s threshold. He raised a hand toward his son, and Alberta could see he was holding the .38 pistol Marvin Jr. had given him.
He pulled the trigger, and shot his son in the chest, tearing through his heart. As Marvin Jr. slumped off the bed to the floor, his father strode forward and fired again. The second shot was unnecessary.
Marvin's brother, Frankie, ran to the sound of shots. His wife, Irene, called 911. Paramedics arrived to find Marvin Sr. sitting on the front porch. They demanded to see the gun before they would enter the house. Irene found it under Marvin Sr.'s pillow and threw it on the lawn.
Gaye was rushed to California Hospital. Resuscitation efforts were in vain. He was declared dead at 1:01 p.m.
Pictured: Marvin Gaye, Sr. escorted by police
Everybody pointed fingers and offered theories after Gaye was dead.
Jeanne Gay said, "In the past Father had made it very clear that if Marvin were to strike him, he'd murder him. Father said so publicly on more than one occasion."
Gaye's bodyguard, Andre White, told author Turner that the case was in effect a suicide. He said, "He wanted to die, but he couldn't do it himself. He got his daddy to do it."
Dr. Ronald Markman, a psychiatrist who examined Marvin Gay Sr., had his own idea about the shooting.
"I believe that people kill basically because they're humiliated," he told Turner. "It's not a question of whether you're a pacifist, a minister or a rabbi. It's a question of whether you are capable of being humiliated and whether you are able to deal with that humiliation short of the need to destroy. That day Marvin had humiliated his dad by knocking him down. So you have a 45-year-old man hitting a 70-year-old man. He was knocked to the ground. He got up without a word but he went and got a gun and returned to kill him."
In a jailhouse interview a week after the slaying, Marvin Sr. explained the slaying to the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.
"I pulled the trigger," he said. "The first one didn't seem to bother him. He put his hand up to his face, like he'd been hit with a BB. And then I fired again. I was backing towards my room. I was going to go in there and lock the door. This time I heard him say, 'Oh,' and I saw him going down. I do know that I did fire the gun. I was just trying to keep him back off me. I want the world to know it wasn't presumptuous on my part."
Asked if he loved his son, Marvin Sr. chose his words carefully before saying, "Let's say that I didn't dislike him."
About 10,000 people attended the funeral, led by the Chief Apostle of the House of God, his father's old church. Stevie Wonder sang, and Smokey Robinson and **** Gregory gave readings. Gaye was laid to rest wearing a costume from his final tour â€” a gold-and-white military-style uniform, with an ermine wrap at his shoulders.
An autopsy had found that Marvin Jr. had both cocaine and angel dust in his system when he died. And an examination of Marvin Sr. found what authorities called "massive bruises" on his body after he was arrested, apparently inflicted in the beating and stomping his son gave him just before the shooting.
Marvin Sr. was charged with murder, but on September 20, 1984, he was allowed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, a plea bargain allowed based on his age (70), the physical assault and the drugs in his son's system.
He appeared before Judge Gordon Ringer on November 2 for sentencing.
"This is one of those terribly tragic cases in which a young life was snuffed out," Ringer said. "But under the circumstances it seems to be agreed by everybody, including the very able and experienced investigating officers in this case, that the young man who died tragically provoked this incident, and it was all his fault."
Marvin Sr. was given an opportunity to speak. He 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 happenI'm really sorry for everything that happened."
Ringer ordered a six-year suspended sentence and five years of probation. He banned Gay from drinking or owning a gun.
Gay Sr. moved into the Inglewood Retirement Home. Alberta divorced him, after 49 years. She died of bone cancer three years after the slaying. Marvin Sr. died of pneumonia in 1998. Their son Frankie died of a heart attack in 2001.
Gaye died without a will, so his estate was of no benefit to his three children.
He still owed Anna Gordy Gaye $293,000 and the government $1.6 million in back taxes. His record royalties gradually paid down those debts while Motown and CBS fought in the courts over rights to Gaye's unreleased recordings.
Gaye wrote or recorded more than 200 songs, and 66 of them were Billboard hits. In 1987, he was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Pictured: Top..Funeral Procession
Bottom.. Marvin Gay Sr. in court
Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, by David Ritz, 1985, McGraw-Hill
Trouble Man: The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye, by Steve Turner, 1998, Penguin Books
What's Going On? Marvin Gaye and the Last Days of the Motown Sound, by Ben Edmonds, 2001, MOJO Books
Marvin Gaye, My Brother, by Frankie Gaye and Fred. E. Basten, 2003, Backbeat Books
Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves, and Demons of Marvin Gaye, by Michael Eric Dyson, 2004, Basic Books
"A Visit With Marvin Gaye," by Ben Fong-Torres, Rolling Stone, April 27, 1972
"I Didn't Mean to Do It," by Patricia Klein and Mitchell Fink, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, April 4, 1984
"Marvin Gaye: a life marked by complexity," by W. Kim Heron, Detroit Free Press, April 8, 1984
House of God
About The Author - Dave Krajicek
David J. Krajicek is a crime writer, newspaper columnist, author and former journalism professor.
Krajicek is a special correspondent for the New York Daily News, for which he writes "The Justice Story," a long-running Sunday feature that looks back at interesting crime cases. He was the "Crime Beat" columnist with APBnews.com, a crime news web site.
He is the author of Scooped! Media Miss Real Story on Crime While Chasing Sex, Sleaze, and Celebrities (Columbia University Press), an unblinking look at coverage of crime and crime policy. Eric Alterman of The Nation described the book as "smart, well written, politically powerful, and culturally relevant."
His first crime fiction, a short story entitled "Sutphin Blvd.," was published in the fall of 2003 by Midnight Mind Press in an anthology of crime stories set in the New York City area.
Krajicek was police bureau chief of the New York Daily News and has covered crime for the Council Bluffs(Iowa) Daily Nonpareil and the Omaha(Nebraska) World-Herald. He has written for dozens of other publications, including The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Manchester(U.K.) Guardian, Newsday, Mother Jones, Woman's World, EmpireStateReport, Prague's Lidove Noviny, Nosotros magazine, Canadian Law Enforcement Review, and the Center for Foreign Journalists Review.
Krajicek, who holds degrees from the University of Nebraska and Columbia University, taught criminal justice reporting, among other things, as an assistant professor at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism from 1990 until 1998, when he returned to writing full time. He has spoken about crime journalism at the Newseum, Florida's Poynter Institute, on C-Span, and at the Radio and Television News Directors Association national convention, among other venues. He has appeared on dozens of TV and radio shows, including Britain's BBC, NPR's "On the Media," Fox News Channel and the CBC's "Sunday Morning Live."
His citations include The John Peter Zenger Award of the New York State Bar Association for a magazine piece about penal policy. He also has been cited by the New York Press Club and the Associated Press, and he was named the New York Housing Police Department's "Reporter of the Year." He is co-founder of Criminal Justice Journalists, a national association of crime reporters, and co-author of Covering Crime and Justice: A Guide for Journalists, a Web publication by CJJ.
Pictured: Top: My brother Marvin Gaye by Frankie Gaye
Bottom.. The Author - Dave Krajicek