Marvin Gaye was the second of four children born to a church minister and a domestic helper. The “Prince of Soul” grew up singing in church with his father, but when he began singing secular music, he was booted out of the house. Gaye went on to become one of Motown’s most important characters in the 1960s, both as a producer and as a singer.
On April 1, 1984, however, his life was cut short when his father, Marvin Gay Sr., shot him in their house following a fight.
Gaye garnered various awards and honors during his career, as well as posthumously, for his work on multiple albums. His Grammy Awards include a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Grammy Award for his 1982 chart-topping track Sexual Healing. In addition to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame in 1987.
Gaye signed a record deal worth $1 million (more than $6 million now) in the 1970s after becoming a popular Motown musician. He became one of the highest-paid Black performers at the time as a result of the arrangement, but he quickly ran into financial difficulties. According to Trust Counsel Records, he had accumulated $9.2 million in debt at the time of his death, $4.5 million of which was owing to the IRS in past taxes.
In addition, the singer owed his ex-wife Anna Gordy over $300,000 in outstanding alimony. He had filed for bankruptcy after falling behind on alimony payments to his first wife, Anna, years before he was shot and killed by his father.
In 1959, Gaye met Anna, Berry Gordy’s (the creator of Motown) sister. From the moment they met, they clicked, and by 1963, they were married. They had a child together but were having marital issues. Anna filed for divorce in 1975, two years following their separation. After failing to make alimony payments, Gaye declared bankruptcy in 1976. According to rumors at the time, he owed his ex-wife about $600,000.
That year, a judge ordered the artist to pay $600,000 in royalties on his new album, “Here, My Dear,” to his ex-wife. According to reports, he filed for bankruptcy and sought temporary tax exile in Europe due to a severe substance abuse addiction.
Gaye continued to perform despite his financial difficulties. With his Grammy-winning hit “Sexual Healing,” which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles list, he attempted a return. It was there for a record-breaking 10 weeks. The song sold over 2 million copies in the United States alone, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He appeared to be on the verge of making it big once more.
Gaye’s father-son connection had deteriorated by that time. Some speculated that his father was envious of his son’s achievement, while others speculated that the son now believed he could punch back like a man when his father struck. Gaye’s Christian preacher father, according to some, did not approve of the songs he sang. Whatever it was, all it took for Marvin Sr. to shoot and kill his son was a misunderstanding about a misplaced insurance policy.
Even though Gaye left a rich musical legacy, his intellectual property, which included song royalties, life story rights, and picture rights, was his only major asset at the time of his death.
The iconic musician didn’t leave a will, but he did leave a mound of debt in his wake. His executors were able to pay off his obligations thanks to the sale of his music rights. Thankfully, the executor of his estate was able to amass many million dollars in assets for the estate, leaving something for his heirs – his three children.
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