This is the day Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his own father in 1984. This horrible event shocked the world and left a vacancy in the musical world that will never be filled. Marvin Gaye was my personal favorite of the Motown singers. It felt as if someone I knew closely had suddenly died. Marvin's death was even more shocking than the death of Elvis Presley 7 years prior.
Everywhere I went for weeks after this event, I heard people still talking about it. It was way beyond scandalous.. The details became extremely public and all the private Gay family secrets were exposed..just tragic...
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 tangled.
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 in the Hebrew Pentecostal Church and a proponent of a strict moral code he enforced brutally with his four children.
He was also, by all accounts, a hard-drinking cross-dresser who personally embodied a rather complicated model of morality. 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 may have been at the root of many of his struggles.
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."
Marvin Gay, Sr. was held at the Los Angeles County Jail on a $100,000 bail. Gay's accounts of the shooting were printed in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, quoting Sr.'s words: "I didn't mean to do it."
During a check up at the County-USC Medical Center, a benign tumor was discovered at the base of Marvin Sr.'s brain. Doctors removed the tumor on May 17. Despite that development, Judge Michael Pirosh ruled that Marvin Sr. was competent to stand trial on June 12, after reviewing a two-page report, including two psychiatric evaluations conducted by Dr. Ronald Markman.
He appeared in court again on June 20, where he was ordered to return on July 16 for a preliminary hearing. His wife, Alberta, posted the reduced bond of $30,000 via a bondsman to secure the ex-minister's release.
Two days earlier, she had filed for divorce, citing she officially separated from him following her son's fatal shooting on the same day.
Looking over documents, the amount of drugs in Gaye's system, and pictures of Marvin Sr.'s injuries during his final fight with his son, Judge Ronald George agreed to grant Marvin Sr. a plea bargain. As a result, Marvin Sr. pleaded no contest to a voluntary manslaughter charge on September 20.
On November 2, Judge Gordon Ringer sentenced Marvin Gay, Sr. to a six-year suspended sentence and five years probation. During the sentencing hearing, Marvin Gay, Sr., in tears struggling to come up with words, told the court:
If I could bring him back, I would. I was afraid of him. I thought I was going to get hurt. I didn't know what was going to happen. I'm really sorry for everything that happened...
Following this, Alberta Gay filed for divorce after 49 years of marriage. Following the final divorce decree, Alberta moved to be taken care of by her daughter Jeanne at her home in Burbank.
In 1986, Alberta founded the Marvin P. Gaye, Jr. Memorial Foundation in dedication to her son to help people with drug and alcohol problems. Before the memorial opened, however, she died on May 9, 1987 at 74 after years with bone cancer.
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