Soul Tragedy: Marvin Gaye Was Fatally Shot By His Father With A Gun He Gave Him For Christmas

By | December 16, 2019

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CIRCA 1974: Soul singer Marvin Gaye plays piano as he records in a studio in circa 1974. (Photo by Jim Britt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Marvin Gaye's murder, at the hands of his own father when Gaye was just 44 years old, was a shocking loss. His diverse catalog included hard-hitting soul ("I Heard It Through The Grapevine"), seductive jams ("Let's Get It On," "Sexual Healing") and a full-length era-embodying masterpiece (the 1971 album What's Going On).

But fame and family sometimes work against each other in ways that are difficult to fathom. Marvin Gaye and his father, Marvin Gay Sr., give us perhaps the greatest example of this difficult push and pull. While other celebrities and their families might fight over money or the drastic changes that occur through the glorified vortex of fame and fortune, Marvin Gaye and his father battled over much darker demons.

Gaye, who added the E for his stage name, was shot and killed by his father, using a revolver that Gaye gave him for Christmas. This is the story of one of the bleakest deaths in celebrity history. 

The Most Difficult Of Beginnings

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Marvin, his mother, and son (pinterest)

The rags-to-riches celebrity story has become a cliche, but there was nothing cliche about the agonizing childhood Marvin and his siblings endured at the hands of their father. Things got off to a bad start when Marvin Gay Sr. married Marvin Gaye’s mother, Alberta, who already had a child of her own. Marvin Gay Sr. refused to “raise another man’s child,” so Alberta’s first son Michael was sent to live with Alberta’s sister. 

Marvin Gay, Sr., was an American Pentecostal minister and a disciplinarian. He would test his children’s knowledge of bible passages and savagely beat them if their answers erred.