Marvin Pentz Gay, Sr. (October 1, 1914 – October 10, 1998)
was an American fundamentalist minister of the Seventh-day
Adventist Church and later a spin-off sect called the House of
Born on a farm
along Catnip Hill Pike in Jessamine County, Kentucky, he was the
father and murderer of famous Motown performer Marvin Pentz Gay,
Jr., later known as Marvin Gaye.
The father and
son were said not to have gotten along. Gaye, Jr., was said to
have resented his father because he was a closeted crossdresser.
Gay, Sr., was displeased with his son's secular music and
lifestyle, and arguments between the two were regular and
Gay, Sr., shot
his son twice (in the shoulder and chest) and killed him during
an argument at the Gays' Los Angeles, California home on April
He served five
years probation for the filicide, after pleading no contest to
voluntary manslaughter, and was sent to a rest home for the
remainder of his life. He died of pneumonia in Culver City,
California, at the age of 84, in 1998.
The Reverend Marvin Pentz Gay, Sr. (October
1, 1914 – October 10, 1998) was an American fundamentalist
minister of the House of God. He was the father of legendary
musician Marvin Gaye and gained notoriety after shooting and
killing his eldest son on April 1, 1984 following an argument at
their Los Angeles home.
Gaye was Born on a farm
along Catnip Hill Pike in Jessamine County, Kentucky to George and
Mamie Gay, and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. Gay had a difficult
childhood, surviving his father's physical abuse towards him and
his 12 siblings.
Gay eventually entered ministry
in his late teens, joining a Pentecostal church as a pastor in a
church in Washington, D.C. where he and wife, Alberta Cooper from
North Carolina, raised their family of four children: daughters
Jeanne (b. 1937) and Zeola (b. 1945) and sons Marvin, Jr.
(1939–1984) and Frankie (1942–2001). After leaving his church, he
formed a spin-off sect called the House of God and spent most of
his time as a storefront preacher taking his sermons to different
churches where he often took his eldest son to sing gospel songs.
Relationship with son
later said that, as a child and adolescent, he feared his father
often describing him as a "peculiar, tyrannical, powerful king".
As he grew older, Gaye adapted a rebellious attitude against his
father, often instigating beatings by either messing with his
father's hairbrush or chewing a pack of his gum. When he began
attending Cardozo High School, Gaye began listening to doo-wop,
smoked Menthol cigarettes and skipped home to attend rock 'n' roll
concerts by Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson. This angered his father,
who had ordered his four children to not do what he regarded as "sinful"
including going out to dances or trying out for sports.
Rumors abound in Gaye's biographies that his
father was a transvestite and acted very effeminate, leading to
gossip around Gaye's neighborhood that he was homosexual. Marvin
and his younger brother Frankie would often find themselves
defending their father and themselves, often being accused of
being homosexual. Bobby Taylor, the younger Gaye's friend from
D.C. and himself a Motown star, said that suggestions that Marvin
Sr., was homosexual was "ridiculous", often saying "go look in the
phone book, I bet you'll find a whole bunch of Gay people
then." He was in fact a womanizer who was often physically abusive
towards his wife.
In 1956, Marvin Gay, Jr. left home, dropped out
of school and enrolled in the United States Air Forces. He
eventually returned home from an honorable discharge and later
joined The Marquees, which later joined Harvey Fuqua to become "Harvey
and the New Moonglows".
In 1961, shortly before releasing his
first single, young Marvin altered his last name to Gaye
with an e added to it because he felt "it was more professional".
Author David Ritz insisted that Gaye also did this to "silent the
gossip of his name and to distance himself from his father".
Throughout his life, Gaye tried to have a relationship with his
father but as his fame grew, the two grew distant.
In 1972, Gaye returned to Washington, D.C. where he was honored with "Marvin
Gaye Day". During the ceremony and after a heralded concert
performance at the Kennedy Center, Gaye's first in four years
following the collapse of late duet partner Tammi Terrell, Marvin
said that the day was one of the first times where he felt that he
"had made my father proud".
Despite the often stormy and troubling
relationship between father and son, Gaye often dedicated some of
his famous works to his father, including "God is Love" from his
What's Going On album, "Everybody Needs Love" from Here,
My Dear, where he states that his father, like him, "needed
love", and "Joy", which he dedicated on his father bringing him up
in church, Marvin often mentioned how he was influenced by his
father's sermons during his concert tours. At one point, Marvin
even had his father on with him during a Midnight Special
show where Marvin allowed his father to give him advice. After
Marvin, Sr. told him that he thought he was "a wonderful person",
Gaye embraced his father.
murder of Marvin Gaye
By the 1970s,
Marvin Sr., a longtime alcoholic, had proven to be too difficult
to continue his ministry. At this point, his marriage to Alberta
grew more contentious. After Marvin moved his parents to a mansion
he bought for them in the West Adams district of Los Angeles in
1972, their marriage continued to deteriorate with his drinking.
In 1983, following the end of his erratic final concerts to
promote his successful Midnight Love album, Gaye, who was
dealing with money issues and drug addiction, moved to his parents'
home as he watched over his mother, who was recovering from
surgery. After being away for a few months, Marvin Sr. returned to
Los Angeles around October 1983.
Upon hearing news his father had sold their
family home in Washington without consulting his mother, Marvin
kept his distance from his father but was reportedly angry about
the decision. The few times father and son came into contact, it
nearly exploded in violence. At one point, Marvin Sr. reportedly
told Gaye's sister Jeanne that he would "kill" Marvin if he
On Christmas Day, 1983, Gaye gave his father a
.38 to help protect Gaye from what he felt was a building attempt
on his murder. Friends and family members later said Gaye giving
his father the gun was "a premeditated suicide"; Gaye had made
failed suicide attempts a few times in the past.
On the night of March 31, 1984, Marvin, Sr.
began arguing with Gaye's mother over a missing insurance policy.
At one point, the argument continued into their son's bedroom
where, dressed in a maroon robe, Gaye confronted his father to
leave his mother alone.
The following morning, April 1, Gaye's parents
began arguing again. Gaye's mother was beside her son when the
elder Marvin began yelling for her. Gaye told his father to come
in his room and talk to Alberta directly. When the elder Gay
refused, Gaye yelled, "if you don't ever come in here, don't ever
come into my room again". When Marvin Sr. entered, Gaye yelled at
him, cursing at him and pushing him out of the room. While at the
elder Gay's bedroom, Marvin began kicking him. Alberta said she
remembered her husband screaming "he's kicking me, I don't have to
Alberta rushed in to grab her son's arm and
walked him calmly back to his room. Angered at his father, Gaye
told his mother, "I'm packing my stuff and getting out of this
house, Father hates me and I'm never coming back." A few moments
later, Marvin Sr. entered his son's room with the .38 that Gaye
had giving him and shot the singer at point blank range to the
heart. After Gaye slumped to the edge of the bed, the elder Gay
shot him again at point blank range at the shoulder. Gaye's
brother Frankie and his sister-in-law Irene were next door when
they heard the shots and quickly rushed to the house where Irene
eventually got the elder Gay to retrieve his gun while Frankie
rushed to console his dying brother, who was clinging to Frankie's
arm gasping for air. By the time paramedics took him to the
hospital, Gaye was already pronounced dead on arrival. Gaye died
the day before his 45th birthday.
After Marvin Jr.'s death,
Alberta filed for divorce after 47 years of marriage. Marvin,
Sr.'s other three children were estranged from their father, as
well as Marvin's own children. Marvin Sr. also was noticeably
absent from Marvin, Jr.'s star-studded funeral. During his time in
jail, when asked if he loved his son, Marvin Sr. said, "well,
let's just say that I didn't dislike him."
Originally charged with first-degree murder,
the charges were dropped when doctors examined Marvin Sr. and
discovered that the then 69-year-old suffered a brain tumor. He
agreed to serve five years probation for the crime, after pleading
no contest to voluntary manslaughter. During sentencing, Marvin
Sr. tearfully stated to the court that he wished he hadn't killed
his son, saying he feared for his safety. His wife later went and
lived at their daughter Jeanne's house. Marvin Sr. was later sent
to a rest home for the remainder of his life, where he died of
pneumonia in Culver City, California on October 10, 1998, just
nine days after turning 84.
Death of Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye was an American singer-songwriter
and instrumentalist who gained fame in the 1960s as the top-leading
male vocalist of Motown Records and went on to become one of the
most influential rhythm and blues musicians of the 20th century by
the releases of his 1970s albums, What's Going On and
Let's Get It On and his 1982 Grammy hit, "Sexual Healing".
Gaye was shot to death by his father, Marvin Gay,
Sr., on April 1, 1984 at the West Adams district of Los Angeles at
their house at Gramercy Place. Shot twice, once in the heart and
another in the shoulder, the first shot proved to be fatal. Gaye was
pronounced dead on arrival upon entrance to the California Hospital
Medical Center. Following a star-studded funeral on April 5, Gaye was
given a burial plot at Forest Lawn Cemetery and was later cremated
with his ashes spread around the Pacific Ocean.
Comeback and bouts with addiction and depression
In 1981, Marvin Gaye left London, England
following an erratic European tour and a drug paralysis and moved
to Ostend, Belgium on the advice of a concert promoter. Gaye
enjoyed a brief period of sobriety while at Ostend, and it was in
Belgium where he eventually made new plans for his then-dormant
music career, in a slump following two ambitiously produced
concept albums, Here, My Dear (1978) and In Our Lifetime
(1981), the latter album Gaye felt his longtime label Motown
rushed to release on purpose.
Gaye ended his turbulent run at Motown in 1982
signing with CBS Records' Columbia division, releasing the
successful Midnight Love album that October. Marvin's hit
from the album, "Sexual Healing", had not only revived his
popularity as a recording artist but also won him his first pair
of Grammy Awards in early 1983. Marvin was at first reluctant to
leave Belgium but was said to have left abruptly in November 1982
following news his mother was in need of emergency surgery for
treatment of bone cancer. Following his return to Los Angeles,
Marvin went back to abusing drugs and often contemplated suicide.
After a successful but erratic concert tour to promote Midnight
Love, Marvin returned to the house he bought for his mother
continually battling his drug addiction.
Marvin's father, Marvin Gay, Sr., an ex-minister
who reportedly had physically abused Gaye and his three siblings
during their childhoods growing up in Washington, D.C., returned to
California upon news he had sold his former D.C. home, which was said
to have angered the younger Gaye. Marvin's family and friends
described Gaye's final months as "tormented". In one instance, Gaye
had jumped out of a sports car trying to kill himself.
Meanwhile, Marvin was also contemplating another
album with CBS. Several artists including Jermaine Jackson, Dionne
Warwick and Barry White will confirm later on that Marvin had talked
to them about working with them on the album, which would have been a
duets project, his first since 1973's Diana & Marvin, with
Diana Ross. Friends say Marvin rarely came out of his room, however,
wearing week-worn clothes under a maroon robe, carrying a pistol in
his robe pocket and a handgun and using drugs while reading from the
Bible and watching pornography on TV. In Christmas of 1983, Gaye gave
his father a handgun as a Christmas present reportedly for him to
protect Gaye from would-be killers, which friends said added to his
paranoid state at the time.
leading up to the death
On March 31, 1984, Marvin's parents had a domestic
argument over misplaced business documents while Marvin, ill from drug
use, lay in bed. Upon hearing this, he woke up and told his dad to
leave his mother alone, though neither men physically attacked each
other. The next day, April 1, the arguments started again.
According to Marvin's mother, Alberta, Marvin Sr.
began yelling at her for a missing insurance policy when Marvin told
him to come in his room to talk to her. When Marvin Sr. rejected, Gaye
yelled at him to never approach his room again saying "if you don't
ever come in now, don't you ever come into my room again".
When Marvin Sr. came in, Gaye got up and pushed his
father, later reportedly shoving him to the ground and kicking him.
Alberta Gay rushed to her husband's room and got Marvin out of the
room. Marvin said to his mother that he was leaving, saying "Mother,
I'm going to get my things and get out of this house. Father hates me
and I'm never coming back."
A few seconds later, Marvin Sr. returned with the
.38 that Gaye had given him and shot the singer at point blank range
in his heart, later shooting him a second time in the shoulder, again
at point blank range.
Marvin's brother Frankie and his wife, Irene, were
next door when Irene heard the shots. When Irene rushed outside, she
saw Marvin's mother screaming for help saying "he shot my son!"
Frankie ran upstairs to see his dying brother struggling to breathe,
while 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. Upon arriving, the police quickly arrested Marvin Sr.
Gaye was pronounced dead on arrival upon his entry
to the California Hospital Medical Center at 1:10 pm PST, dying a day
before his 45th birthday (April 2). Fans and neighbors of Marvin's
crowded around the scene of the crime shortly after hearing the news.
Four days later, on April 5, Gaye was given a star-studded
funeral, attended by over 10,000 mourners, including his Motown
colleagues Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Motown CEO Berry Gordy,
who was at one point, Gaye's brother-in-law. The singer's two ex-wives
Anna Gordy Gaye and Janis Gaye and his three children, Marvin P. Gaye
III, 18; Nona Gaye, 9; and Frankie "Bubby" Gaye, 8; also attended the
funeral. Gaye had an open casket funeral led by one of his ministers
from his Pentecostal church. Shortly afterwards, the singer's remains
were cremated and Marvin's children and his ex-wife Anna spread his
ashes at the Pacific Ocean.
Around the same time, police interviewed Marvin Sr.
on the events leading up to his son's murder. When asked if he loved
his son, Marvin Sr. reportedly took his time before finally answering,
"let's just say I didn't dislike him". Shortly after his arrest,
Marvin Sr. was examined by doctors, who discovered a "walnut-sized
tumor in his pituitary gland, in the base of his brain". Despite this,
Marvin Sr. was declared competent to stand for trial.
During a pre-hearing, it was revealed that Marvin
Sr. was brutally injured in his final fight with Gaye. After much
contention, the prosecution and Marvin Sr.'s defense team agreed to
enter a plea of voluntary manslaughter, in which he received a five-year
sentence of probation. During the sentencing, a more apologetic Marvin
Sr. told the court that he regretted killing his son.
Shortly after their son's death, Alberta Gay filed
for divorce from Marvin Sr. after 49 years of marriage. Marvin Sr.,
then 69 years old at the time of his son's death, continued to live in
the Gramercy house until eventually he was sent to a rest home in
Culver City, California, where he eventually died of pneumonia on
October 10, 1998 at the age of 84.
Marvin, who was in debt at the time of his death,
reportedly left no will. In his autobiography, Marvin's friend Bobby
Womack said he gave some money for Marvin's second ex-wife, Janis to
help try to cover up Marvin's financial ruins leading to the death.
Tributes and reevaluation of Marvin's music
A day after Marvin's death, British rock group
Duran Duran dedicated the song "Save A Prayer" to Gaye; later on that
year, R&B singer Teena Marie recorded the song, "My Dear Mr. Gaye"
with Gaye's 1970s collaborator, Leon Ware. A year afterwards, two
tribute songs, Diana Ross' "Missing You" and The Commodores' "Nightshift",
were released to national acclaim, both reaching number-one on the
Billboard Hot Black Singles chart while also reaching the top ten
on the Billboard Hot 100.
That same year, David Ritz released the biography,
Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, which quickly became a
national best-seller upon its release. In 1984 Columbia and Motown re-released
Marvin's popular records, What's Going On, Let's Get It On,
and Midnight Love on the charts. The following year, the labels,
with help from Marvin's friend Harvey Fuqua and his brother-in-law,
Gordon Banks, released two works featuring unreleased Marvin material,
Dream of a Lifetime and Romantically Yours.
In 1987, Gaye was posthumously inducted to the Rock
& Roll Hall of Fame by Ashford & Simpson, Gaye's frequent
collaborators in the 1960s during his duets with Tammi Terrell. Two
years later, another tribute song, "Silky Soul", was released by
Frankie Beverly & Maze, a group Marvin had mentored and had allowed to
open for him during a 1977 tour. In 1994, Motown re-released more of
Gaye's works, including 1976's I Want You, 1978's Here, My
Dear, and 1981's In Our Lifetime. All three albums were
critically reevaluated by music critics who hailed the former two
albums as landmark masterpieces in Gaye's career.
Marvin's What's Going On (1971), Let's
Get It On (1973), I Want You (1976), Here, My Dear
(1978) and Midnight Love (1982) albums have been on several
best-of lists over the years while rock critic Dave Marsh declared
Marvin's international number-one 1968 hit, "I Heard It Through the
Grapevine" as the greatest song in rock history. In 1996, Gaye was
given another posthumous honor with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement
Award. The singer was honored in song by Seal and Annie Lennox. In
1990, Gaye was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, six years
after his death. In his 2008 album, Something Else, Robin
Thicke mentioned Marvin's death in the song, "Dreamworld" with the
lyric "I would say, Marvin Gaye, your father didn't want you to die."
Since his death and the release of Divided Soul,
three more books, Steve Turner's Trouble Man: The Life and Death of
Marvin Gaye, brother Frankie's My Brother, Marvin and
Michael Eric Dyson's Mercy Mercy Me: The Art, Life and Demons of
Marvin Gaye have been released. Two planned films on the singer's
life are also in the works.
The death of Marvin Gaye
For showbiz purposes, Marvin added an e to his
last name. His family remained Gay. Snicker, snicker.
By the time 1984 rolled around, Marvin was on a
train ride to hell. He owed a lot of money to the IRS, and he was in
the midst of a downward spiral of drug addiction and abuse. He wasn't
able to hold on to a relationship, and was becoming increasingly more
paranoid. He told his musicians that he was being stalked by murderers,
and began wearing a bullet-proof vest.
On April 1, 1984, Marvin was staying in his
parent's house, in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles. The house is
still there, on Gramercy. He was strung out, doing loads of cocaine
and spent hours watching porn videos in his bedroom. He was wearing a
maroon bathrobe that he'd been wearing for days. He carried a pistol
in the pocket of his robe, and had a small arsenal under his bed. He
was convinced that someone was going to kill him.
I have to preface the next part by saying that
according to most published sources, Marvin had a turbulent-at-best
relationship with his father, Marvin Gay, Sr. They say that the senior
Gay abused Marvin as a child, and resented his fame and glory, yet
lived off the profits. What follows are quotes from Marvin's mother,
"That morning, my husband (Gay Sr.) came walking
through my bathroom door, and asked me where he could find this
insurance letter. I couldn't hear him very well, so Marvin asked him
to come into the room where we were. My husband said no, he wouldn't
come in the room."
Marvin told him, ''If you don't come in now, don't
you ever come into my room again.''
"Then my husband came in the room. Marvin told him
to get out, and got up from the bed, walked over to my husband, and
pushed him back. Marvin pushed him a couple of times. My husband
turned and walked back to his bedroom. Marvin followed him, yelling
little cuss words at him. Marvin told his father, ''I'll beat you
Both of them went into the father's room. "I didn't
see what happened in the bedroom," related Alberta, "I heard my
husband say, He's kicking me. I don't have to take that.''
"When I entered the room, my husband was on the
floor, and Marvin was standing a short distance away. I took Marvin by
the arm and led him back to his room. I sat him on the foot of the bed.
Marvin told me, "Mother, I'm going to get my things and get out of
this house. Father hates me and I'm never coming back."
"I was standing about eight feet away from Marvin,
when my husband came to the door of the bedroom with his pistol. My
husband didn't say anything, he just pointed the gun at Marvin. I
screamed but it was very quick. He, my husband, shot - and Marvin
screamed. I tried to run. Marvin slid down to the floor after the
The first 38-caliber slug had entered his right
chest at a 30 degree downward angle, perforating the right lung, heart,
diaphragm, liver, stomach, and left kidney before coming to rest
against his left flank. It was immediately fatal.
Gay Sr. stepped forward and fired again at point-blank
range. He then went downstairs to the front porch, threw the pistol
out onto the lawn and sat down to await police.
Marvin Gaye Jr. was taken to the California
Hospital Medical Center, and pronounced dead at 1:01 PM. It was one
day before his 45th birthday.
Gay Sr. was arrested, and soon, crowds of eager
spectators gathered in front of the house.
Marvin's body was taken from the hospital to Forest
Lawn Glendale, where more than 10,000 people passed his open casket.
He was dressed in a gold and white military uniform, one of his
costumes from his final tour. A brown weasel (Yes, a weasel, okay well,
ermine. Same diff. By the way, don't you hate when people say "Same
difference?" It's almost as bad as "It was like Déjà vu all over again."
Man, I hate that. Sorry, this isn't about me, is it?) wrap was around
Stevie Wonder sang at the service, Smokey Robinson
spoke, as did Dick Gregory (Marvin was a big fan). Gaye's mother, ex
wives and three kids were there too. His mom bent over the casket and
kissed Marvin's cheek. After the service, he was cremated, and his
family scattered his ashes at sea.
In prison, Gay Sr. was asked if he loved his son.
His reply was, "Let's say that I didn't dislike him." Charming. Upon
examination, doctors found a walnut-size tumor in his pituitary gland,
at the base of his brain. There was no way of knowing how long it was
there, or if it affected his behavior.
In June, he was ruled competent to stand trial. His
wife sued for divorce, and moved in with her daughter.
In the trial, the jury examined photographs of Gay
Sr.'s body, and there were bruises. The Judge, Ronald M. George
accepted a no contest plea of voluntary manslaughter with a gun. On
November 2nd, he was sentenced to five years probation.
Mrs. Gay died three years later, of bone cancer.
Marvin Gay Sr. died in October of 1998. I'll bet Marvin is kickin' his
ass right now.