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A Tragic Story: Marvin Gaye’s Tumultuous Relationship With His Father Led To His Death In 1984

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Marvin Gaye’s death shook the world of music lovers and fans back in 1984. While his father was found guilty for cutting his life short, there have been questions about the backstory of their tumultuous relationship. 

Marvin Gaye’s relationship with music was nothing short of beautiful in his lifetime. However, the star nicknamed the “Prince of Soul” had a different story where his father, Marvin Gay Sr was concerned. 

In fact, the upheavals and disagreement between the pair ended up in Gaye’s shocking death. However, it is safe to say that the issues between them were a build-up from Gaye’s childhood.

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Marvin Gaye's death
Marvin Gaye. Image: Pinterest

Gaye’s Rocky Childhood

Back in April 2021, Gaye would have been 82 years old. His posthumous birthday became a thing back in 1984 when he was 44 years old. However, the pattern of abuse that ended his life went as far as his preteen years. 

Gaye was born in 1939 into the family of Marvin Gay Sr and Alberta Cooper. Gay Sr was a preacher and a member of a strict Christian sect. As a result, societal trends like sleeveless dresses, TV, and make-up were highly frowned upon in their home. 

When the now-late Gay Sr married Cooper in 1935, she already had a son, Michael, from a previous relationship. However, he refused to raise Michael with her, and the boy had to be sent to Cooper’s sister.

Gay Sr. and Cooper became parents to four children, with Gaye being the second child. Cooper once shared that Gay Sr’s negativity towards his son started at an early age. 

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Cooper shared that “for some reasons,” Gay Sr did not love his son as a father would and many wondered if Gaye was his. His strict religious beliefs further contributed to his animosity towards the young Gaye. 

However, Gaye was not alone when it came to imposing religious punishments on the children. The kids are coaxed into memorizing bible verses and were severely punished when they missed a line or forgot some quotes. 

But Gaye’s punishment was always over the top. Despite his religious zealotry, Gay Sr had his vices. He engaged in extramarital affairs and was also a heavy drinker. He also fathered a child outside matrimony. 

Gay Sr. would often starve his children in a bid to bring them closer to God. He also disliked Gaye’s closeness to his mother, and would often have rifts with her over it.

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Gaye’s Personal Life And Journey Through Music

Growing up only became harder; when Gaye discovered his musical talents, his father was not supportive. But thanks to Cooper, Gaye’s resolve for music grew more assertive.

The big picture probably became clear to Gaye in his teenage years and when he turned 17, he ran away from home. He joined the US Air Force and was only there for a few months. 

The start of what would be a phenomenal age in music began when Gaye returned to Washington, where he joined a musical group. He soon got a job as a backup for singer Tamla Motown. 

At the time, stars like Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, and Stevie Wonder were ahead. Marvin gradually climbed the ladder of fame, and with it came the alteration of his original surname, ”Gay,” with an “e.”

Two things were involved, Gaye sought to distance himself from his father and also to quell speculations on his sexuality. The following years in his music career saw immense success.

Marvin Gaye’s songs include “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need To Get By,” and the famous lovers’ anthem, “Sexual Healing.” He also received lots of awards and recognitions.

Marvin Gaye’s Death

Gaye had become a made man, but not enough to calm the storm between him and Gay Sr., and the turn of events in his career was also a contributing factor.

Gaye battled several vices at the peak of his fame, from drug abuse, debt to depression. Finally, he moved back to his parent’s home in 1983, and the animosity with his father reached its climax.

There was an ingrained rift between father and son, but many would have thought, “not enough to kill the son.” So why did Marvin Gaye’s dad kill him? On a fateful day in 1984, which ended up in what no one could have envisioned, Gaye was up in his room.

An altercation broke out between Gay Sr and Cooper, and Gaye was having none of it. He continuously cautioned his dad, but Gay Sr did not heed.

It turned physical between them, with Gaye shoving his father and punching him several times. When the fight ended, an enraged Gay Sr. went into his room and drew a .38 pistol, shooting the Grammy winner right through the chest.

The LAPD officers arrested the complacent Gay Sr., and his son was declared dead within an hour of being taken to the hospital. 

The news of Marvin Gaye’s death sent shock waves throughout the global entertainment scene. The singer had tragically died a day before his 45th birthday. 

Gay Sr was charged with manslaughter and incarcerated for six years. At the time of conviction, he was 69 years old. He would later pass on in 1998 from pneumonia complications. 

Marvin Gaye’s songs have kept his legacy flying, although he’s been gone for over three decades. His influence can be gleaned in top singers like Chris Brown and The Weeknd. 

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