Singer Marvin Gaye’s life was tragically cut short in 1984–on April Fool’s Day–by his father, Marvin Gaye, Sr., who shot the singer point blank in the chest after an argument in the family’s home turned violent.
Marvin Gaye was just 44 years old. He would have turned 45 the very next day.
Gaye was born in Washington, D.C. in 1939, and began singing in church at the age of 4. Later, he moved to Detroit and saw early and significant success with Motown Records.
As his popularity grew, unfortunately, so did his problems: Marvin Gaye often found himself beset with bouts of severe depression and he is said to have regularly entertained suicidal thoughts.
Though touched with a phenomenal voice and mesmerizing stage presence, Gaye reportedly struggled with self-doubt and deep insecurity.
Marvin Gaye’s father–an abusive, cross-dressing man who pastored a small local church–impacted that. Gaye, Sr. allegedly beat and degraded Marvin, Jr. as Jr. was growing up. The two would share a relationship that featured a lifelong love/hate theme.
They both may have also shared an affinity for women’s clothes: Marvin, Jr., who was 6’1″, turned heads after he told a biographer that he had fantasized about seeing himself adorned in women’s lingerie.
Marvin was famed for his hyper-emotional, romantic ballads. But Marvin himself was frequently unlucky in love. He was divorced twice. Both relationships were alleged to feature periodic violence.
Drug use would become a dominant factor in his life. At one point, Marvin exiled himself to Europe in part to try and overcome his addiction.
But a tumultuous personal life did not stop Marvin from releasing songs that would become iconic. His 1971 hit album, What’s Goin On?, is an era-defining masterpiece, featuring songs and a prophetic message that resonates as much today as it did in 1971.
Marvin’s influence is such that only a few artists have dared to even attempt to cover any of Gaye’s numerous classics.
Singer Robin Thicke learned the hard way that you need to be careful when messing with a Marvin Gaye hit; Gaye’s estate settled a lawsuit with Thicke after it accused him of using unauthorized samples of Gaye’s music to create his own hit. Rappers T.I. and Pharrell were also lumped into the lawsuit.
Marvin is father to noted singer Nona Gaye.
R.I.P. Marvin Gaye