5 Things You Didn't Know About Marvin Gaye

On April 1, 1984, Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his own father one day short of his 45th birthday. Here are 5 facts you probably didn't know about the soul singer and songwriter known as the "Prince of Soul"...


Marvin’s Last Name Didn’t Always End in “E” Rumors that Marvin was homosexual and his father a crossdresser caused the singer to change his last name by adding an "e" at the end. Gaye said his father sometimes wore his hair long and curled and dressed in women's clothes, but he, himself, was not gay. Another reason Gaye changed his name was to distance himself from his abusive father.

He Was A Motown Drummer During His Early Years Gaye had started his career as a member of the doo-wop group The Moonglows in the late 1950s. He then ventured into a solo career after the group disbanded in 1960, signing with Motown Records subsidiary, Tamla. He started off as a session drummer, and as a road drummer for The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, and The Marvelettes. Gaye drummed on the Marvelettes hits, “Please Mr. Postman”, Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips” and was one of two drummers behind Martha and the Vandellas’ landmark hit, “Dancing in the Street”.


He Stopped Performing Duets in 1970 Marvin Gaye performed most of his legendary duets (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need To Get By”) with singer Tammi Terrell. Terrell died from brain cancer in 1970 and Gaye vowed never to sing with another person or on stage ever again. 

He Attempted Suicide Three Times In addition to substance abuse, Gaye secretly suffered from depression. In 1969, he attempted to shoot himself with a handgun but was stopped by Berry Gordy. In 1979, he ingested a full ounce of cocaine thinking it would be a “slow but pleasant death, less messy than a gun.” The week of his death, Gaye jumped out of a moving car but survived with minor injuries. Marvin Gaye described his depression during an interview a year before his death. “I was at my lowest ebb. I really didn’t feel like I was loved. Because I didn’t feel love, I felt useless.”

His Father Murdered Him After an argument between father and son escalated into a physical fight on the morning of April 1, 1984, Alberta Gay was trying to calm her son in his bedroom when Marvin Sr. took a revolver given to him by Marvin Jr. and shot him three times in his chest. 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.”