Marvin Gaye was the son of a church minister and domestic worker and was the second of four children. The “Prince of Soul” grew up singing in the church with his father but was kicked out of the home when he started singing secular music. Gaye later became one of Motown’s biggest figures both as a producer and later on as an artiste in the 1960s.
His life was however cut short on April 1, 1984, after his father, Marvin Gay Sr., shot him in their home during a confrontation.
With several albums to his name, Gaye received numerous accolades and honors during his career and also posthumously. These include a Grammy Award for his 1982 chart-topping single Sexual Healing as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame.
In the 1970s, after being successful as a Motown artiste, Gaye signed a record deal worth $1 million (more than $6 million today). That deal made him one of the highest-earning Black musicians at the time, but soon, financial difficulties began. In fact, at the time of his death, he had accrued $9.2 million in debt — $4.5 million of which was owed to the IRS in back taxes, according to reports by Trust Counsel.
The singer also owed his ex-wife Anna Gordy close to $300,000 in back alimony. Years before he was shot and killed by his father, he had filed for bankruptcy after falling behind on alimony payments to his first wife, Anna.
Gaye had met Anna, the sister of Berry Gordy (the founder of Motown) in 1959. The two clicked from their first meeting, and by 1963, they were married. They adopted a child together but had marriage problems. In 1975, two years after being separated, Anna filed for divorce. Gaye filed for bankruptcy in 1976 after failing to keep up with alimony payments. At the time, reports said he owed his ex-wife around $600,000.
A judge had that year ordered the singer to pay his ex-wife $600,000 from royalties of his upcoming album, “Here, My Dear.” Reports said a heavy substance abuse addiction also led him to file for bankruptcy and seek temporary tax exile in Europe.
Amid financial troubles, Gaye continued to perform. He tried to make a comeback with his Grammy-winning single “Sexual Healing”, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart. It stayed there for a record 10 weeks. In the U.S. alone, the hit sold more than 2 million copies and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He looked like he could make it big again. However, a day before his 45th birthday, he was shot to death by his father.
Gaye’s relationship with his father had then deteriorated. Some said his father was jealous of his son’s success and others thought the son felt he could now hit back like a man when daddy struck. Some also said that Gaye’s Christian preacher father did not like the kind of songs he sang. Whatever it is, a misunderstanding over a misplaced insurance policy was all it took for Marvin Sr. to shoot and kill his son.
And though Gaye behind a rich musical legacy, his only major asset at the time of his death was his intellectual property including song royalties, life story rights, and image rights. The legendary singer didn’t leave behind a will but a mountain of debt. His executors, through the marketing of his music rights, were able to pay off his debts. Fortunately, the executor of his estate also managed to accumulate several millions of dollars worth of assets for the estate, leaving something good for his heirs — his three children.