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The private funeral for soul singer Marvin Gaye today...

By
AURELIO ROJAS

LOS ANGELES -- The private funeral for soul singer Marvin Gaye today was expected to draw record-industry luminaries such as Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, but legions of his adoring fans will be barred.

More than 5,000 people -- some tearful, others listening to Gaye's music on tape players -- paraded past the singer's casket Wednesday at Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the largest memorial gathering for an entertainer in decades.

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The predominantly black crowd formed a four-block line that stretched past the cemetery's gates.

Earlier in the day, Gaye's family and about 75 invited guests, including singers Smokey Robinson, Barry White, Jermaine Jackson and Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr., viewed the body in private.

As Gaye's music blared from cassette players in the crowd, his fans waited more than an hour to enter the cemetery's Church of the Hills, where the bearded singer lay, dressed in the Navy officer-styled suit he wore on stage during his last U.S. tour.

Gaye was fatally shot Sunday during an argument with his preacher father, Marvin Gaye Sr., at the family home over an 'immaterial' letter from an insurance company. The elder Gaye, a retired minister, has been charged with murder.

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The circumstances surrounding the shooting mattered little to many in the crowd.

'He may be dead, but his spirit lives on through his music,' said Rita Scott while fighting back tears. 'He was a wonderful man who preached through his music that love could conquer hate.'

Among the mourners was Elgie Stover, a record producer who worked with Gaye for more than a dozen years.

'His goal when he sat at the piano was to reach people through his music,' Stover said. 'I don't think even he knew how many people he touched. All you have to do is to look at this crowd to see how much he was loved.'

Robert Wheeler, vice president of Forest Lawn, said the turnout was the largest he had seen for a memorial in his 25 years with the cemetery. Veteran Hollywood reporters also said they could not remember a bigger turnout for an entertainer.

'We've had services for people like Clark Gable, Will Rogers, Jeanette MacDonald, George Raft and Stan Laurel ... but never a crowd like this,' Wheeler said. 'The previous high was about 1,500 for Freddie Prinze.'

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