SIMMONS: Memories of Marvin Gaye kept alive by a loving sister
The younger sister of the late Marvin Gaye has some tough talk for anyone even remotely interested in the singer’s life: “If it doesn’t have my name or my sister’s name attached to it, it may not be accurate.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Zeola Gaye also discussed growing up poor in the nation’s capital; her family’s substance abuse problems; her brother’s favorite saying, “Do unto others”; her mother, “a God-fearing Christian who didn’t drink or curse,” and a performance with Marvin when she was in high school.
The gig was at the Howard Theatre, which, during its recent reopening, paid homage to one of the city’s native sons in front of an audience that included Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson and Marvin’s little sis.
“There were always tensions in our family.”
“I have some fond memories of growing up in D.C.”
“My father resigned his church post for Marvin.”
“Marvin was upset at the Motown 25 [anniversary show]. He wanted to know why MJ [as in Michael Jackson] could sing any song he wanted, but he couldn’t perform ‘Sexual Healing.’ “
“Drugs were rampant in L.A. We [Marvin and Zeola] used marijuana and cocaine. No heroin. No needles.”
“We were going to take him to rehab on Monday, but he died on Sunday.”
That would be Sunday, April 1, 1984, the day before Marvin would have turned 45 and the day, during another domestic dispute, that Marvin Sr. used the .38 handgun - which Marvin had given to him - to shoot his own son dead.
Zeola said that sometimes, since Marvin’s death, she can’t quite reconcile the pains of the Gaye family with the simple joys of life they shared, a contrariness surely reflected in Marvin’s music.
Zeola - or Zee, the nickname Marvin gave her and she embraced - said her brother’s spiritual self, reared in Pentecostalism, was always in conflict with his secular self, which was encouraged at a young age to enjoy soulful musical stirrings in church.
All four siblings were raised in the church (where Marvin first sang as an adolescent) and were told to honor their mother and father, and respect other adults, and to be mindful of the sabbath - and for the most part they did.
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