The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye
The World Closes In
During the 1970s, he toured only to pay off mounting debts — including a $2 million tax bill for failing to give the government its share of record advances.
A divorce lawsuit filed by Anna brought new financial pressures after a judge ordered him to pay her $5,500 per month in the interim before settlement.
Gaye was earning $20,000 a month in 1975, according to biographer Steve Turner, and his production company earned a profit of $1.2 million that year from the singer's national tour.
Yet Gaye could not come up with $5,500 a month for his wife and adopted son because he was blowing his cash on cocaine and other indulgences.
He bought his parents a neo-Tudor mansion in L.A.'s Crenshaw district. He bought himself a five-acre estate in Hidden Hills, complete with a full-sized basketball court and elaborate horse stables, even though he had no interest in horses. He bought an interest in the New Orleans Jazz NBA franchise.
He bought oceanfront property in Jamaica. He bought 14 cars, including a Rolls Royce, a Jaguar and several Mercedes Benzes. He bought a speedboat, a small yacht, an RV and a couple of tractors.
He bought financial interests in a series of professional boxers — paying their expenses in anticipation of future earnings. None ever panned out.
He built an elaborate recording studio on Sunset Boulevard in L.A., complete with a suite with a king-size waterbed and a hot tub large enough to accommodate a harem.
After seeking $1 million, Anna Gordy Gaye agreed to settle the divorce for a lump-sum payment of $600,000, money that Marvin expected to earn by recording an album for that single purpose.
The 1978 record, cattily entitled "Here, My Dear," was a critical and commercial flop, with its self-centered themes and titles such as "Anger" and "You Can Leave, but It's Going to Cost You," a reference to Anna's warning that the "young girl" Hunter would cost Gaye a fortune.
But the payment to Anna resolved only one small part of his debt woes.
An ex-manager claimed Gaye owed him $2 million. Four musicians had successfully sued Gaye for $200,000 in back pay, and California authorities shuttered his studio for nonpayment of taxes.
His last gasp at regaining financial footing came on September 28, 1979, when a fighter he owned, Andy Price, took on welterweight champion Sugar Ray Leonard.
"If Price could win, I was looking at millions of dollars in future revenues," Gaye said. "With one blow I could... clean up my whole financial mess."
Leonard knocked out Gaye's man in the first round.