The tragic family rift that proves blood is not always thicker than water

Clare Garner
Wednesday 08 January 1997 01:02

Blood is not always thicker than water, as the tragic story of Hank Marvin's eldest son so poignantly illustrates.

"It's never ideal that a close relative should walk away from you like that," the former Shadows guitarist once said of his son. "But as I've matured I've realised that just because you have a blood bond, it doesn't mean you will always be friends."

Dean Marvin was born with the world at his feet. His life's ambition was to become a guitarist - just like his legendary father. On Monday morning, he was found dead in a north London hostel for the homeless at the age of 34, his dream and his family long forgotten. He had few possessions by the end - not even the guitar which he had once hoped would bring him fame and fortune. Not many of his friends at the YMCA knew that his father was famous.

You don't have to look far to see that things could have been different. Take his younger brother, Ben, 21. He was born to Hank and his second wife, the ex-dancer, Carole Naylor, and went with them to Australia when they emigrated 10 years ago. Ben wanted to be a guitarist. Ben is a guitarist. Moreover, he is presently gearing up for a round of 42 concerts as he takes to the stage with his father on a tour of Britain starting in March.

His millionaire father's 40-year career is still going strong. His concerts are packed and his newly released album has sold 200,000 copies in the first two months.

When Hank divorced his first wife, Beryl, in 1971, Dean lived with his mother in Mill Hill, north London, along with his twin brothers Peter and Paul, now 33, and sister Philippa, now 30.

In a newspaper interview in 1983, Dean claimed that his father had rejected him, given him no money and left him and his twin brothers to struggle on benefit. He revealed how religion had caused a rift between him and his father when Hank and Carole became Jehovah's Witnesses in 1973.

The fall-out drove him to drink, he said, a problem which had cost him his job.

"The crunch came over a girl I fell for," he said in the interview. Dean said his father had wanted him to give her up she was not a Jehovah's Witness.

"Things went rapidly downhill and I started drinking to escape," he said "The irony is that all I really want is to do the same thing as my father did - earn my living as a professional guitarist."

Dean spent the last five years of his life in the same homeless hostel. Most people stay for two years at most, but Dean, who like everyone else, received counselling to make moving out easier, never wanted to leave.

Louis Lewis, the general secretary of the hostel, said last night: "We do try to help people move on but, having said that, a lot of people rather like it here. They get all their meals prepared, their room cleaned every day and their laundry done."

But it might also have had something to do with the family atmosphere. "Here, even though we have 158 people moving around, it's like a family," said Mr Lewis.

"Everyone knows everyone else. I live here. Some would say I was the father - or grandfather - of the family."

Mr Lewis remembered that Dean arrived at the hostel, homeless and having lost contact with his family.

"I think there was a feeling that they didn't want to be involved with him and he didn't want to be involved with them. The only thing he was very proud of was that Cliff Richard was his godfather. He used to say to me: `Cliff Richard was my godfather, you know.'"

But worshipping was from afar. On the news of Dean's death, Sir Cliff, a committed Christian, said he had not seen his godson "since his family split up in the late Sixties".

Sir Cliff was rehearsing yesterday for the opening night in Manchester of Heathcliff, the show in which he has invested millions of pounds of his own money.

Mr Lewis said that it was not uncommon for families to drift apart. "It's very difficult," he said. "We frequently ring parents and say: `Your son's in hospital' or `Your son needs some attention', but they say they don't want to be bothered.

Quite often parents behave a bit like animals in the jungle. They abandon their youngsters." The inquest into Dean's death will open today.

Mr Lewis suggested that Dean might have died by choking on his own vomit, and doubts that he committed suicide. Whatever the verdict, it was clear that Dean died alone.

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