On this date in crime history – April 1, 1984, R & B singer Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father. At the peak of his career, Gaye was known as the Prince of Motown and was the voice behind hits such as "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)." Like other recording artists such as Stevie Wonder, Gaye both epitomized and outgrew the crowd-pleasing sound that made Motown famous. Over the course of his roughly 25-year recording career, he moved successfully from upbeat pop to soul, combining elements of Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan and Barry White into one complicated and sometimes contradictory package.
If the physical cause of Marvin Gaye's death was straightforward, gunshot wound to chest perforating heart, lung and liver, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner, the events that led to it were much more twisted. On the one hand, there was the longstanding conflict with his father dating back to childhood. Marvin Gay, Sr., (the "e" was added by his son for his stage name) was a preacher and a proponent of a strict moral code he enforced brutally with his four children. By some reports, Marvin Sr. harbored significant envy over his son's tremendous success, and Marvin Jr. clearly harbored unresolved feelings toward his abusive father. Those feelings spilled out for the final time in the Los Angeles home of Marvin Gay, Sr., and his wife Alberta. Their son the international recording star had moved into his parents' home in late 1983 at a low point in his struggle with depression, debt and cocaine abuse. Only one year removed from his first Grammy win and from a triumphant return to the pop charts with "Sexual Healing," Marvin Gaye was in horrible physical, psychological and financial shape, and now he found himself living in the same house as the man who must have been at the root of many of his struggles. After an argument between father and son escalated into a physical fight on the morning of April 1, 1984, Alberta Gay was trying to calm her son in his bedroom when Marvin Sr. took a revolver given to him by Marvin Jr. and shot him three times in his chest. Marvin Gaye's brother, Frankie, who lived next door, and who held the legendary singer during his final minutes, later wrote in his memoir that Marvin Gaye's final, disturbing statement was, "I got what I wanted....I couldn't do it myself, so I made him do it."
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012, Schiffer Publishing). The WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime. Visit the authors website for more information: www.michaelthomasbarry.com
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