The Reason Marvin Gaye’s Sister Was Able to Forgive Alcoholic Dad for Killing Brother

"I had to," Marvin Gaye's sister, Zeola says in explaining her reason for forgiving her father's crime of killing her brother. Marvin Sr. shot his son in their home during an altercation with his wife.

Shortly before what would have been Marvin Gaye’s 31st death anniversary, his sister opened up about why she forgave their father for shooting her brother. 

Singer Marvin Gaye was turning 45 when his father, Marvin Gaye, Sr. shot him during an altercation in their home. | Source: Getty Images

Singer Marvin Gaye was turning 45 when his father, Marvin Gaye, Sr. shot him during an altercation in their home. | Source: Getty Images

On April 1, 1984, just days away from his 45th birthday, legendary singer Marvin Gaye tried to intervene in his parents’ altercation and paid the price. His father, Marvin Gaye, Sr. drove two bullets to his chest. The singer died, ending his reign as one of the most influential artists of his time. Years later, Marvin’s sister, Zeola, found it in her heart to forgive their father and shares her reason.

"The bottom line is he was my father. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”

HIS TRAGIC DEATH

It was around 12:30 pm when Marvin, who had a bitter relationship with his strict father since childhood, heard his parents arguing in their home in the West Adams District of Los Angeles. They were reportedly arguing over an insurance policy letter that was missing. As their altercation escalated, Marvin attempted to intervene by keeping his father away from their mother. When things turned physical, Marvin Sr. left and returned with his .38 pistol, the same one Marvin gave him as a Christmas gift to protect their family from intruders.  He fired two shots at his son who slid down the floor after taking a hit in his heart. The legendary singer was pronounced dead at the hospital. 

Among his [Marvin Sr.] four children, it was Marvin who suffered in his hands the most through brutal whippings. This led the singer to contemplate suicide at a young age.

Marvin Gaye performing live on stage at Jaap Edenhal in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1978 | Photo: Getty Images

Marvin Gaye performing live on stage at Jaap Edenhal in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1978 | Photo: Getty Images

HIS FATHER'S REGRET

Marvin Sr. expressed his regret after the incident claiming he didn’t mean to kill his son and genuinely feared the singer would hurt him. He pled no contest to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to six years in prison and five years of probation. His wife, Alberta filed for divorce shortly after.

Towards the end of his life, Marvin Sr. suffered health issues and was forced to move to a nursing home. It was Zeola who tended to him.

HIS SISTER'S FORGIVENESS

Meanwhile, as Zeola struggled to accept her brother’s tragic passing, she eventually found it in her heart to forgive her father. 

“I had to,” she told the Huffington Post more than thirty years after Marvin’s death. “Because you know what? The bottom line is he was my father. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.” Zeola added that though she didn’t condone what her father did, he was answerable to God and not her.  

"I wish that he had not killed Marvin but it happened.” 

 Marvin Gaye's sister Zeola Gaye visits FOX 29's "Good Day" to promote movie "My Brother Marvin" | Photo: Getty Images

Marvin Gaye's sister Zeola Gaye visits FOX 29's "Good Day" to promote movie "My Brother Marvin" | Photo: Getty Images

HIS STRUGGLES WITH HIS FATHER'S PARENTING

Marvin Sr. was an American Pentecostal minister who raised his kids with a strict hand. He would allegedly prohibit his children from attending church on Sundays and instead force them to observe an extended Sabbath on Saturdays. He would quiz them on Biblical passages and beat them if they answered wrong. Among his four children, it was Marvin who suffered in his hands the most through brutal whippings. This led the singer to contemplate suicide at a young age.

Marvin Gaye performing at Casino, Oostende, Belgium on April 7, 1981. | Source: Getty Images

Marvin Gaye performing at Casino, Oostende, Belgium on April 7, 1981. | Source: Getty Images

Marvin Sr. eventually became an alcoholic and was allegedly involved in cross-dressing which caused more problems between him and his son. It was when the latter gained fame that he attempted to make amends with his father. He bought him a Cadillac and even bought his parents the West Adams home where he died. 

HIS SISTER'S COMMITMENT TO HELPING THEIR FATHER

Towards the end of his life, Marvin Sr. suffered health issues and was forced to move to a nursing home. It was Zeola who tended to him. He later contracted pneumonia which resulted to his death in 1998 at the age of 84. 

Zeola explained why she extended a hand to her father. 

“He needed some help. I had to help him. And I was the only one who actually did that, other than my niece Angie. We had to take care of him and we had to take care of our mom and a lot fell on us. And I wish that he had not killed Marvin but it happened.” 

Marvin Gaye performs on stage at the Holiday Star Theater Indiana | Photo: Getty Images

Marvin Gaye performs on stage at the Holiday Star Theater Indiana | Photo: Getty Images

HIS SUCCESSFUL CAREER

Although his successful career was cut short by his tragic death, Marvin lives in people’s hearts through his music. He gained fame from his earlier hit “I Heard it Through The Grapevine” and his duets with Tammi Terrell, ''You're All I Need to Get By,'' ''Your Precious Love'' and ''Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing.'' He later shocked the world with his sexually explicit songs, “Let’s Get it On” and “Sexual Healing,” which earned him two Grammy awards a year before he died. 

HIS POSTHUMOUS ALBUM

Marvin was reportedly working on a new album at the time of his death. But this was not the same album that was released last April, three days before his 35th death anniversary. The posthumous project, "You're The Man" was originally set for release in 1972 but was shelved by Motown due to its highly socio-political undertones. It's now a painful reminder of the man many people lost untimely and whose music will stay on.  

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