Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye

The Influence of Narcotics

By 1973, Gaye's behavior had grown increasingly erratic.

He avoided studio work, missed concert dates and became reclusive.

Once, after an argument with Anna, Gaye barricaded himself in an apartment with a gun, threatening to kill himself or anyone who walked through the door. Berry Gordy, Sr., his father-in-law, talked him out of violence.

But Gaye's intimates worried about the possibility of suicide, especially when he was under the influence of narcotics.

Gaye said he first used drugs in 1960 while on the Motown Revue bus tour. He had an affair with a "shake dancer" in the show known as Titty Tassel Toni, and she turned him on to marijuana.

Pot is "a quick giggle," Gaye told Ritz. "But coke was a different deal. Blow is what really let me fly. There were moments when I really thought I was gone. I'm talking about times — really down times — when I snorted up so much toot I was convinced I'd be dead within minutes. I rather liked the idea of there being nothing left of me but my music."

But cocaine cost money, especially in the quantities he consumed. And money had become an increasing source of strife for Gaye.

He had two sources of income: touring and record royalties.

Gaye hated to tour. It was physically demanding, partly due to his drug use. ("I do enough drugs in my normal life," he said, "but on the road the quantity triples.") He had persistent performance anxiety throughout his career, and he feared flying.

Often, he dragged his mother along on tour for support. He said, "If mother hadn't traveled with me, I'd never have had the nerve to do live performances again."

Categories
Advertisement