Mental Health and Marvin Gaye
Mood Music: His Eyes are On The Sparrow by Marvin Gaye
On this day, I miss Marvin Gaye. Did I know him? Was he my family? Was he a family friend? Had I ever seen him in concert? The answer to each question is a resounding no. Honestly, he wasn’t alive for a single day of my lifetime, but I miss him. On April 1,1984 Super Soul Sensation, Marvin Gaye, was shot and killed by his own father. It was a death that shocked the world over. Marvin Gaye fell victim to a monster that many become prey to; however, few like to admit its potency. The vicious predator? Mental health neglect.
To understand the case, you need a little background. Marvin Gaye was born to a father who bared a strong dislike for him and was mentally and physically abusive. Marvin Gay, Sr. was also a black pastor who publicly expressed transsexual urges. Marvin’s father was an open cross-dresser, which was nearly unheard of at that time. Gay (Gay is Marvin’s given surname) Senior embarrassed the family by walking around town with short shorts , pantyhose, and hair rollers. Marvin’s father seemed to never practice what he preached in the pulpit on Sundays, as he also indulged in affairs with woman from his own congregation inside the family home. Marvin’s mother was loving, but totally passive about her husband’s outlandlish behavior On top of all the negativity at home, Marvin was molested by his father’s brother as a young boy. Marvin was relentlessly teased by the other school children about his father’s behavior. Marvin grew up fighting off bullies and during whatever he could to prove he was superior to his fantastically eccentric father.
When Marvin finally broke out into the music industry as a singer, he was a shy person who could only be enlivened by recording. He added an “e” to his last name, as not to be associated with his father’s sometime homosexual behavior. As a star, Marvin began to experiment with drugs. He started with marijuana, then quicky migrated into heavy cocaine use. Marvin spent his life fighting the division of his soul- the shy church kid who desired God whole-heartedly vs. The charismatic sexy superstar who loved fast cars, fast woman, and a fast lifestyle. This struggle lead to greater drug use, depression, two divorces, several suicide attempts, bankruptcy, and eventually death. At the end of life, he went full circle. He moved back in with his parents and purposefully provoked his father who often threatened,” I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out.” On April 1, 1984, Marvin Gaye was killed by his own father with the gun he had brought his father for his birthday. Marvin Gaye was only hours away from his own forty-fifth birthday when he passed away.
Marvin’s Mental Health
If you take a look at Gaye’s semi biographical book, Divided Soul, you will learn that he struggled his entire life with numerous battles, mentally: His father’s physical abuse, being molested, his father’s sexuality, his own private enjoyment of cross-dressing, his mother’s passive behavior, his drug use, his severe stage fright, sloth, dear friend and duet partner Tammi Terrell’s passing, his obsessive want of his father’s love and approval, his intense jealously of his brother and other male artists, his failed marriages, and his financial woes. Marvin was intensely moody and also struggled with depression and manic behavior. Some days he was the life of the party – happy, charming, and buying the bar out for friends. On other days, he stayed in his bedroom for weeks at a time. Gaye admitted to being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, and obviously the symptoms were exasperated by heavy drug use. By the end of his life, Marvin was sick, irate, and delusional. If his father’s bullets had not killed him, he probably would have died days later of an overdose or complications from years of drug abuse.
Mental Health and You
I am a fan of Marvin Gaye and fan is not a word I use lightly. His music moves me in ways few other artist do, but his life moves me most. I wonder often what would have become of Marvin had he really gotten the help he needed? If in the 1960s, had some loving person taken him to an environment away from drugs and gotten him some amazing counseling, would he still be alive today? If Marvin had received the proper medication, love, and therapy he so desperately needed, would he be a proud grandpa and father today? What hurts the most is I know the answer is yes.
Too often is mental health neglected. There were so many instances in Marvin’s life in which he was literally crying out for help, but the people around him would dismiss the situation by saying, “Oh, that’s just Marvin.” At one point in Divided Soul, Marvin is on his third or fourth attempt of suicide and one of his close friends writes it off as Marvin’s desire for attention. Suicide attempts are never a cry for attention; however, they are a red flag alerting everyone of the status of someone’s mental health. Marvin Gaye’s tragic life teaches a weighty lesson- take care of your mental health. If you notice that you or someone you love is spiraling out of control, if you notice strange changes in behavior, even if you notice that someone is down for longer than a few days, consider discussing mental health intervention. There is no shame in admitting to needing some help. It is actually a very good thing to realize that you have problem beyond your control and seek treatment. Don’t die a needless death like Marvin Gaye, don’t leave behind those that love and adore you, seek treatment and conquer your demons before it’s too late.
Happy heavenly birthday Marvin you are so missed.