At the peak of his career the “Prince of Motown” had his life taken away by the person who gave him that life in the first place.
After his soulful voice brought us hits like “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” the singer with a 25-year recording career wouldn’t give us another hit.
On April 1, 1984, Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his own father, just one day shy of his 45th birthday.
The physical cause of Gaye’s death was straight-forward, ”Gunshot wound to chest perforating heart, lung and liver,” according to the Los Angeles County Coroner, but the events leading up to his death were much more tangled.
The Grammy-winning singer who topped charts with is classics, including “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” shocked the world with the news of his death.
Gaye grew up in Washington D.C. singing and playing the organ in his father’s church. He joined the Army at the age of 17. After his stint in the army, he moved to Detroit where he was hired as a drummer by Motown Records founder Berry Gordy.
Personal problems in Gaye’s life wreaked havoc on his career in the mid-70s.
Gaye and his father had a longstanding conflict that dated back to his childhood.
Marvin Gay, Sr. was a preacher in the Hebrew Pentecostal Church and upheld a strict moral code that he brutally enforced with his four children.
He was also reportedly a hard-drinking cross-dresser who struggled with his own moral code.
It was said that Marvin Sr. held significant resentment over his son’s success, and Marvin Jr. clearly had unresolved feelings towards his father’s abuse.
"Marvin's relationship with his father made him who he was. His need to be successful, find love and then take drugs were all down to it. No matter what he achieved with his songs, all he got was resentment and criticism," Steve Turner, Gaye’s biographer. Marvin Gaye added the "e" to his surname after "Gay" prompted jibes about his sexuality, a sensitive subject given his father's proclivity for cross-dressing.
But it was more than just their complicated relationship that would lead to the tragic events of April 1st, 1984.