Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye

Motown's Lover Man

Marketed as Motown's lover man, he was a misogynist who beat the women he professed to love — a trait he inherited from his father. He sang ballads and duets about soulful romance, yet forced his lovers into degrading and kinky acts that satisfied his sadism and voyeurism.

Janice Gaye
Janice Gaye

"The dark side of life and the dark side of the mind really fascinated him," Janice Hunter, Gaye's second wife, told biographer Steve Turner. "There was stuff that I can't even talk about that just went so deep, so dark and so bizarre... Forbidden, dangerous, scary, off-the-wall ways of thinking and behaving."

Gaye barred Hunter from pursuing her dream of becoming a singer.

"I'm the last of the great chauvinists," he told David Ritz, another biographer. "I like to see women serve me — and that's that. In Jan's case, serving me meant feeding my fantasies — my evil fantasies."

Gaye was a chronic masturbator and connoisseur of pornography. He struggled with fear of flying, stage fright, impotence and other forms of sexual dysfunction, paranoia, irrational jealousies and homophobia.

He was envious of men who sang in lower registers than he could because he feared his voice would seem effeminate by comparison. Growing up, kids teased him about his "sissy" father, Marvin Pentz Gay, Sr. Marvin, Jr. added the "e" to his stage name as a teenager.

At his father's insistence, Marvin, Jr. spent the first third of his life suppressing all urges to indulge in secular vices. Once freed of his father's rule, he spent the final two-thirds of his life indulging every vice that struck his fancy.

Yes, Marvin, Sr. shot and killed Marvin, Jr. on April 1, 1984. But their story is much more than a "domestic dispute," as old school cops might call it.

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