Play about Marvin Gaye’s life, death aims to set the record straight

If you’ve ever wondered what the truth of singer Marvin Gaye’s life might look like, or asked why an ordained Pentecostal minister would kill his own son, the play “My Brother Marvin” promises answers.

The show, written and adapted for the stage by playwright Angela Dunlap, opens for a three-day run on April 5 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

Dunlap is no stranger to the theater world. People call her the “leading lady” of urban theater.

Cast members include Emmy Award-winning actress Lynn Whitfield, R&B singer Keith Washington, and actor Clifton Powell, who also directs the drama.

Zeola Gaye, Marvin’s sister, decided to bring the iconic singer’s story to the stage after the “overwhelming success and feedback” of her memoir.

“I couldn’t think of a better time to present my story on stage along with information that was never revealed from my mother’s journal,” she said. “I felt Marvin’s fans deserved to know the truth about his death.”

“My Brother Marvin” made its off-Broadway premiere in 2006. Gaye has since added more detail, gleaned from private memories and letters she recently discovered from her late mother and father.

Gaye said that in the years since Marvin’s tragic death in 1984, she has become more and more disappointed in what has been written and published about her family, especially Marvin.

“In the play, I simply wanted to set the record straight,” she said. “I wanted to leave a true account about Marvin the man and our family.”

Gaye, a retired accountant who sang background on Marvin’s hit “What’s Going On,” said she hopes the play finally puts to rest questions people have and corrects inaccuracies surrounding Marvin Gaye’s life and death, including how drug addiction affects a family and the circumstances that contributed to the fatal shooting.

Days before her arrival in Atlanta, Zeola Gaye took questions about the brother she hopes the rest of us will finally get to know.

Q. What one or two truths about Marvin do you want people most to know?

A. That he was not only one of the world’s greatest artists, but he was also a MAN first, with faults like we all have. No one is perfect … but I can say this: His love for God and humanity stood out and he never faulted on that part of his being. My brother was a wonderful man who, as I said, was not perfect, but was born with a prophetic gift.

Q. What part of his story are you hoping to set straight?

A. Everything that has been written or said that wasn’t accurate — and there have been many inaccuracies. For instance, Marvin never did heroin. He did have bouts with PCP, cocaine, marijuana and some pills. Our father wasn’t gay. He was a cross-dresser. That and a lot more is revealed in the show.

Q. What will the audience find most surprising about Marvin?

A. Like I said, that he had faults. There’s no secret he had a drug problem as many of us had, even myself. They will learn the ups and downs of what drugs or any addiction can do to a family. … I address that issue in my play. Although it’s not pleasant. But none of this is. It’s a tragic ending, as we know, but maybe by seeing the truth his fans can leave with a message and maybe some closure.

Q. His ex-wife has been quoted as saying that “My Brother Marvin” isn’t a true representation of his life. Anything you’d like to say about that?

A. That’s her feelings, and I can’t and won’t try to change that. She only knew him for a few years. I’ve known him all of my life. He was my brother before he was anyone’s husband, father or artist. Who, other than a sibling who grew up with him, would know the truth? This is my family I’m presenting, and this is something I know my brother would want.

Reader Comments

Next Up in Entertainment

You will soon be able to relive the glory of the ‘90s with MTV Classic
You will soon be able to relive the glory of the ‘90s with MTV Classic
Do you long for the good old days of MTV, that halcyon era when reruns of “The Real World” or “Beavis & Butthead” were just a remote-click away and...
Members of a Texas band still wonder how they landed the gig
Members of a Texas band still wonder how they landed the gig
Considering the eerie tone of the new Netflix show “Stranger Things,” it shouldn’t come as a surprise that its musical score and opening theme were...
Concert review: Pitbull and Prince Royce party in Atlanta
Concert review: Pitbull and Prince Royce party in Atlanta
Pitbull launched his set with “Don’t Stop the Party” – and he didn’t. (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC)...
TV Chat July 25: 'Walking Dead,' 'unREAL'
TV Chat July 25: 'Walking Dead,' 'unREAL'
Robert Bianco is the TV critic for USA TODAY. In his Critic's Corner column each weekday, he picks the day's best shows on prime-time TV.
MTV Classic to bring back TRL, 'Cribs,' 'MTV Unplugged,' more
MTV Classic to bring back TRL, 'Cribs,' 'MTV Unplugged,' more
The rock-heavy VH1 Classic will become a thing of the past in August. MTV is bringing back highly demanded old school programming in the form of MTV...
More Stories

You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of free premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on