Marvin Gaye (/ɡeɪ/;born Marvin Pentz Gay Jr.; April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician. Gaye helped to shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s, first as an in-house session player and later as a solo artist with a string of hits, including How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)and I Heard It Through the Grapevine, and duet recordings with Mary Wells,Kim Weston, and Tammi Terrell, later earning the titles Prince of Motown andPrince of Soul.
Gaye’s later recordings influenced severalcontemporary R&B subgenres, such as quiet storm and neo-soul. Following a period in Europe as a tax exile in the early1980s, Gaye released the 1982 Grammy Award-winninghit “Sexual Healing” and its parent albumMidnight Love.
On April 1, 1984, Gaye’s father, Marvin Gay, Sr., fatally shot him at their house in theWest Adams district of Los Angeles.Since hisdeath, many institutions have posthumously bestowed Gaye with awards and other honors—including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame, and theRock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Marvin Gaye was born as Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. on April 2, 1939, in Washington, D.C., to church minister Marvin Gay Sr. and domestic worker Alberta Gay (née Cooper). His first home was 1617 First Street SW, a few blocks from the Anacostia River. The First Street neighborhood was nicknamed Simple City, owing to its being “half-city, half country”. When Gaye was in his teens, the family relocated to the Deanwood section of northeastern D.C. Gaye was the second eldest of Marvin Gay Sr.’s children and the third overall of six. He had two sisters: Jeanne and Zeola, and three brothers: Michael Cooper, Frankie Gaye, and Antwaun Gay. Michael Cooper was from his mother’s previous relationship while Antwaun was born as a result of his father’s extramarital affairs.
Gaye started singing in church when he was four years old; his father often accompanied him on piano.Gaye and his family were part of a Pentecostal church known as the House of God. The House of God took its teachings from HebrewPentecostalism, advocated strict conduct, and adhered to both the Old and NewTestaments. Gaye developed a love of singing at an early age and was encouraged to pursue a professional music career after a performance at a school play. His home life consisted of “brutal whippings” by his father, who struck him for any shortcoming.
The young Gaye described living in his father’s house as similar to “…living with a king, a very peculiar, changeable, cruel, and all powerful king.” He felt that had his mother not consoled him and encouraged his singing, he would have killed himself. His sister later explained that Gaye was beaten often, from age seven well into his teenage years.
Gaye attended Cardozo High School and joined several doo-wop vocal groups, including the Dippers and the D.C. Tones. Gaye’s relationship with his father worsened during his teenage years, as his father would kick him out of the house often. In 1956, 17-year-old Gaye dropped out of high school and enlisted in theUnited States Air Force as a basic airman. Disappointed in having to perform menial tasks, he faked mental illness and was discharged shortly afterwards. Gaye’s sergeant stated that he refused to follow orders.
At around 12:38 p.m. on April 1, 1984, while Gaye was talking with his mother, his father Marvin Gaye Sr. shot Gaye twice: in the heart and on his left shoulder respectively, the latter shot taken at point-blank range.The first shot proved to be fatal. Gaye was pronounced dead at 1:01 p.m. after his body arrived at California Hospital Medical Center.Minutes earlier, the two men were involved in a physical altercation after Gaye intervened in an argument between his parents.
After Gaye’s funeral, his body was cremated at Forest Lawn Memorial Park at theHollywood Hills, his ashes were later scattered at the Pacific Ocean. Initially charged with first-degree murder, Marvin Gaye Sr.’s charges dropped to voluntary manslaughter after examining a benign brain tumor in Gaye Sr. and discovering Gaye had drugs in his system at his autopsy. Marvin Gaye Sr. was later sentenced to a suspended six-year sentence and probation. He later died at a nursing home in 1998.