The Worst April Fools’ Day Joke Ever

I was only five, but April 1, 1984 was one of those days that millions of people will remember for the rest of their lives. That was the day the worst April Fools’ joke ever was played. I recall sitting on the floor in my grandmother’s room watching the news when the story ran. Remember I’m 5 at the time; my relationship with Marvin Gaye was relegated to “Sexual Healing”, his Motown 25 performance, and watching him perform the “Star Spangled Banner” at the NBA All-Star Game. Over the years, I’ve grown far more intimate and acquainted with him through his music, interviews, and biographies.

However, that night, I can only remember watching how my grandmother reacted to the news of his murder and then watching her in disbelief when it was reported that his father pulled the trigger. Now, we know of the turbulent relationship the two of them had, the demons in Marvin’s life, and so much more. But that day, the son of soul music passed and with him went the hearts of millions of fans that had grown up on his music, used his music as the soundtrack to their lives, started their parties or capped their nights.

To a 5 year-old, he became a question, “Why did Marvin Gaye’s daddy shoot him”? The answer was complicated then and even more complicated if I were to ask as a 33 year-old. It seems as if Marvin and his father, Marvin, Sr., had always been at odds, and the younger could never please his father who had grown increasingly despondent over the years. Marvin says he was beaten often as a child and the torment became mental and emotional through Marvin’s adult years, as his father insisted on living off of his wife and later his son.

The level of mental illness the two of them dealt with was ignored, much in the way we continue to ignore it today, but it spontaneously combusted that day. The resentment the two men built over the years, coupled with Marvin’s mental decay and cocaine abuse, proved to be a combustible mix on a Sunday morning in that Los Angeles bedroom. What is clear, however, is that there was a physical confrontation between Marvin and his dad after an argument between his parents.  What happened next ended with two shots into Marvin’s chest and millions of fans left without the voice of Black America…

–Al-Lateef Farmer

Between rhetoric and reality is where you’ll find Al-Lateef Farmer: Black man, husband, social documentarian, and slinger of Soul by the pound. His brand of social commentary rooted in independent thought can be found at, and on Twitter @wrldacrdng2teef.


  1. kyle says:

    …it was exactly 2 months after my 12th birthday that we kids were riding in my uncles car in brooklyn on a bright clear day that we heard of the news…the announcer proclaimed this is not an April’s fools joke…soul singer Marvin Gaye has been shot and killed by his father…my 40 year-old uncle had a look of utter disbelief on his face…i heard marvin’s music through my parents motown collection earlier on….and he was my dad’s fav singer….sexual healing release in ’82 reminded me of the earlier jams i’d hear in the block parties through the ’70’s. When my dad pulled up in his hot new grand prix in the late seventies one afternoon day….the first thing i could hear pumping through his radio was “Gotta Give It Up.” Marvin created memories…and his memory and artistic soul is immortal!!

  2. cheryl says:

    Sexual Healing was his huge comeback hit, and then this happened. It was soooo sad and unbelievable. I miss his music.

  3. Stephen McMillian says:

    Great article Al! I remember that day so well myself. I was about 11 or 12 when the news reported that evening Marvin Gaye was shot. I could not believe it. My parents, my brother and I were big fans of his music. My earliest memories of his music was of hearing “Let’s Get It On” at a great aunt’s house constantly at gatherings and parties when I was real little. The world definitely lost one of the greatest talents ever on that tragic day.

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