Motown Icon Gunned Down


Contentious Family Dispute Ends in Death

Marvin Gaye was an American icon.  In 1982 a new record had surged the Motown legend back to the top of the charts.  The Midnight Love album was his biggest commercial success.  It seemed like Gaye was on top of the world.

But things were not as they seemed.  Gaye was in constant conflict both with his family and his own mind.  Years of cocaine abuse had made Gaye paranoid and delusional. On his 1983 tour he often wore a bulletproof vest, and his cocaine abuse increased.  By the end of the year he was living at home with his parents in Los Angeles, dressing bizarrely and not leaving the house.  One of the world’s biggest stars had become essentially an emotionally disturbed recluse.  He often spoke of suicide. 

Marvin Gaye’s relationship with his father, Marvin Sr., had always been contentious.  His father was a Christian minister and a strict disciplinarian.  He was also a crossdresser, much to Gaye’s embarrassment.  The two fought regularly and could just not get along.  

For Christmas, 1984, the paranoid and suicidal Marvin Jr. bought his father a Smith and Wesson .38 Special.  Not a good idea for either of the two hostile and mentally ill men.  

On April 1, 1984 Marvin Sr. and his wife got into an argument over an insurance policy.  Marvin Jr. intervened, ordering his father to leave.  Marvin Jr. attacked his father, punching and kicking him, causing injuries.  

Marvin Sr. retreated into his room and re-emerged brandishing his Christmas gift.  Firing two shots at point blank range, the elder Gaye struck his son twice in the chest.  The second shot wasn’t necessary.  The first struck several vital organs, killing Marvin Gaye Jr. the day before his 45th birthday.  

Marvin Sr. put the gun under his pillow and went outside, sitting on the front porch to await the police.  He was arrested without incident by responding officers from the LAPD.  

There was no trial.  Prosecutors, seeing the bruises on the elder Gaye, and reading the autopsy report that showed cocaine and PCP in Marvin Jr.’s system, went for a plea bargain.  Marvin Gaye Sr. plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was given a six year suspended sentence and five years of probation.  

Christopher Flanagan


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