Musician Marvin Gaye’s Father Shot and Killed Him When He Was Just 45 Years Old

Marvin Gaye's father shot and killed him after Marvin got in the middle of an argument between his mother and father.

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Apr. 1 2024, Published 11:58 a.m. ET

Marvin Gaye with his parents at Marvin Gaye Day.
Source: Getty Images

Marvin Gaye with his parents on "Marvin Gaye Day" in Washington, D.C., in 1972

Although he lived to be just 45 years old, Marvin Gaye has an almost unsurpassed legacy in the world of R&B music. When some learn why he died at such a young age, they’re shocked that Marvin died after being shot twice by his father, Marvin Gay Sr.

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Naturally, many want to know how this fatal shooting occurred, and what Marvin Gay Sr.’s reasons could possibly have been for killing his own son in cold blood. Here’s what we know about Marvin’s tragic death.

Marvin Gaye singing into a microphone in Rotterdam.
Source: Getty Images
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Why did Marvin Gaye’s dad shoot him?

Marvin and his father had long had a difficult relationship, but the shooting occurred in 1984, when Marvin attempted to interrupt an altercation that had broken out between his parents. The fight took place at their home in Los Angeles, and Marvin was shot twice by his father, and was pronounced dead on arrival at the nearest hospital.

It seems that the shooting occurred in the heat of the moment, and Marvin Gay Sr. pleaded no contest to a voluntary manslaughter charge.

Marvin’s father was a Christian minister and strict disciplinarian when he was growing up, and was also a cross-dresser. That fact was widely known in the Washington, D.C., community where Marvin grew up, and led Marvin to be subjected to bullying.

Marvin added the “e” to his last name to distance himself from his father, and his father never fully approved of his career in music.

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Marvin Gaye moved in with his parents in 1983.

After returning to the public eye in the early 1980s with “Sexual Healing,” and a brief period of sobriety, Marvin moved into a home he had purchased for his parents in 1973. While there, he nursed his mother, who was recovering from kidney surgery. His father was absent for the first few months of Marvin’s stay, but when he returned, the two spent six months trying to avoid one another and keep from butting heads.

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On Christmas in 1983, Marvin gifted his father a revolver so that he could protect himself from intruders. Marvin was also reportedly paranoid and suicidal at this point in his life, and according to one of his sisters, spent most of his time discussing either death or suicide.

Marvin Sr. and Marvin’s mother Alberta were arguing over a missing insurance policy letter, and the argument lasted several days. On April 1, 1984, Marvin Sr. confronted Alberta about the letter, and Marvin told him to leave her alone and stay out of her room. When Marvin Sr. instead came upstairs to yell, Marvin forced him out of the room and proceeded to hit him repeatedly.

When Marvin Sr. returned, he had the gun that he had been given from his son, and shot Marvin directly through the heart.

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