Musicians are no strangers to unusual deaths, but nobody could have predicted how soul legend Marvin Gaye would meet his maker. One day before his 45th birthday, Gaye intervened in an argument between his father and mother over some lost documents. After an alleged struggle, Gaye's father, Marvin, shot his son to death on April Fool's Day, 1984.
It was an abrupt, shocking end to the life of a beloved musician, who in 44 short years, cemented himself as one of R&B and soul music's greatest voices. Marvin Gaye got his start in music by singing in his father's church choir. Gaye grew up in Washington D.C., and after a brief stint in the Air Force, he moved to Detroit to peruse a career in music. He had stints in both the Marquees and the Moonglows before his relocation, and he arrived in Motown as a solo artist.
Marvin Gaye released his first solo LP on June 8, 1961, through Tamla Records (which was Motown's original name). The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye was a jazzy album that was not well-received. However, his follow-up That Stubborn Kinda Fellow was a more straight-forward soul release that sold much better. With his star rising, Gaye kept churning out popular discs, making particular splashes with 1965's How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You,1968's I Heard It Through the Grapevine, and 1969's M.P.G.. However, Gaye hit his highest heights in the '70s, where he released three studio albums—What's Going On (1971), Let's Get It On (1973), I Want You—that hit No. 1 on the Billboard R&B Charts. In that time, Gaye was easily one of the most popular vocalists on the planet. He was as comfortable singing about carnal pleasures as he was talking about social injustices. One of those albums, What's Going On, is still regarded as one of the most important socially conscious albums of all-time, as Gaye unabashedly touches on drug use, crumbling neighborhoods, police brutality, racism, and more.
Marvin Gaye struggled with personal demons for much of his adult life. After his most successful period, Gaye had to file for bankruptcy in 1979, as he was supporting a massive drug addiction. As his career progressed, he became increasingly unreliable, and in a last-ditch effort to get clean, he moved to Belgium in 1981 to try to sober up. He quit Motown and signed with Columbia Records, and following the tour to support his final studio album, 1982's Midnight Love, Gaye returned to his parent's house in Los Angeles, tormented by anxiety and depression. Sadly, that would be the troubled singer's final stop, as he succumbed to his injuries on April 1, 1984. He was 44 years old. Yet despite the troubling nature of his death, it is Marvin Gaye's life and artist output that cements his place in the hallowed halls of musical greatness.