Marvin Gaye Once Went Bankrupt Over Paying Alimony to an Ex

Marvin Gaye had a successful music career and helped bring notoriety to the Motown music scene back in the 1960s. Gaye had countless hits during his career, though his life ended too soon after he was killed by his own father in 1984.

Gaye faced a few hardships in his life, including once filing for bankruptcy over having to pay out alimony to an ex.

Marvin Gaye performs in Indiana in 1983
Marvin Gaye performs in Indiana in 1983 | Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Marvin Gaye is one of the faces of Motown

Gaye helped popularize the Motown sound. His success started with him as a songwriter, though he eventually became a solo artist, producing sounds that are still streamed today. Gaye had hits such as, “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” The latter ended up becoming Gaye’s first song to hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968.

Marvin Gaye continued to see massive success from that point forward, releasing “What’s Going On” in 1970. Only a few years later, another one of his biggest hits came with “Let’s Get It On.” The song, which was a part of the album of the same name, has remained one of the most popular songs in history. At the time, the album remained on the charts for a full two years. Gaye’s success continued for another decade, with the song “Sexual Healing” becoming popular in 1983.

Marvin Gaye performs in Belgium in 1981
Marvin Gaye performs in Belgium in 1981 | Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

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Marvin Gaye once filed for bankruptcy because of alimony

Gaye quickly became one of the most successful artists of his time. Back in 1971, after seeing massive success as a Motown artist, Gaye signed a record deal worth $1 million — more than $6 million today. The deal subsequently made him one of the highest-earning black musicians at the time.

Gaye met Anna Gordy, the sister of Berry Gordy (known as the founder of Motown), back in 1959. He was only 20, but the two had an instant connection. By 1963, the couple wed. They adopted a child together (the son of Gordy’s niece), but it wasn’t enough to save their marriage. Gordy filed for divorce in 1975, after a two-year separation.

Gaye was ordered to pay $600,000 to his wife due to the split. Gaye fell behind on the alimony payments and eventually had to file for bankruptcy. The payments were supposed to come from royalties from Gaye’s 1976 album “Here, My Dear.” Gaye allegedly also battled substance abuse issues, which led to the bankruptcy filing as well. According to Business Insider, by the time he died in 1984, Gaye reportedly still owed Gordy close to $300,000.

Anna Gordy Gaye and her son, Marvin Gaye III, in 1987
Anna Gordy Gaye and her son, Marvin Gaye III, in 1987 | Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Marvin Gaye met a tragic fate when he died in 1984

Gaye’s life of fame and fortune might have seemed perfect on the outside, but internally, he was struggling. He didn’t have any money, and he had a strained relationship with his father. On April 1, 1984, Gaye was visiting his parents when his mother and father started arguing. Gaye stepped in, but Gaye’s father shot him twice as a result of his intervention.

Gaye died by the time he reached the hospital. His death came just one day shy of his 45th birthday.