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New Marvin Gaye music discovered in Belgium

Marvin Gaye in Belgium

The music cache concerns 30 cassettes – good for 13 hours of music – that were left behind in Belgium after Marvin Gaye had lived in Ostend for a while. Discussions are set to start soon with the singer’s relatives about possibly releasing the music.

When was Marvin Gaye in Belgium?

On 14 February 1981 a boat docked in the Belgian port of Ostend, and Marvin Gaye stepped down the gangplank onto Belgian soil. Despite the success of his recording of “I heard it through the grapevine”, things were not going well for him privately. His second marriage had just ended, he was battling a cocaine addiction, and he was in debt. He came to Ostend to relax.

He initially stayed with Belgian DJ, club owner and concert promoter Freddy Cousaert. Gaye lived with Cousaert and his family in their Ostend apartment for several months in 1981. During this time Gaye avoided heavy drug use, exercised in a local gym, attended a local church, and regained his confidence. Following several months of recovery, Gaye sought a comeback onstage, starting the short-lived Heavy Love Affair tour in England and Ostend in June and July 1981.

Healing, in many ways

Surprisingly, given his rather monastic existence in Belgium, it was in Ostend that Gaye was inspired to write “Sexual Healing”, the song for which he won his first ever Grammy award. The song was written in Cousaert’s home at the Residence Jane apartment block and released in September 1982. It peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is listed at number 198 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Its music video was filmed at Ostend’s art deco concert hall, the Kursaal. There’s a bronze sculpture in the lobby of the Kursaal showing the singer sitting at his piano.

Marvin Gaye in Ostend as a bronze pianist
Marvin Gaye remembered in Ostend

Falling in love … with a villa

During his time in Ostend, Gaye visited and fell in love with an 18th century 21-room villa in Moere, a sub-municipality of Gistel. The house belonged to the Mestdagh family and was for sale at the time. Gaye moved in, with the sale to be officially arranged later.

Leaving Belgium

However, in August 1982 Marvin Gaye was forced to suddenly leave Belgium, due to visa problems. He obviously had to leave the villa, but also left its contents behind. By then the sale of the house to Gaye had not been completed, so the Mestdagh family had to find a new buyer. During the cleaning they found a lot of stuff: from costumes to texts to diaries … and music cassettes. Everything was put in boxes and stored.

Documents, costumes and cassettes

The Mestdagh family kept and cherished many of these items for years on end. Finally they began wondering what to do with it all, and contacted lawyer Alex Trappeniers, who specializes in the music industry and copyright. He studied the collection, which was quite a feat as it includes 216 documents, about fifty costumes and accessories, but also – and perhaps most importantly – 30 cassettes with music.

New Marvin Gaye music discovered in Belgium
Remember these?

New music from Marvin Gaye

The result is astonishing. Recorded on the old cassette tapes are 66 pieces of music, including 38 with Marvin Gaye’s own voice.

“An unlikely treasure of demos and recordings. When Marvin Gaye left all that behind in 1982, it wasn’t worth much. Now it’s a time capsule opening up.”

Alex Trappeniers, lawyer

Conversations with relatives

The lawyer asserts that the entire collection – including the cassettes – is the property of the Mestdagh family. However, just releasing the songs isn’t going to be easy. Permission needs to be sought from the owners of Marvin Gaye’s intellectual property, which includes dealing with Gaye’s three children, Marvin III, Nona and Frankie. As always when big money may be involved (new Marvin Gaye songs are obviously going to sell well), discussions and negotiations are likely to be delicate.

Died 40 years ago

On April 1, 1984, a day before his 45th birthday, Marvin Gaye was shot dead by his own father after yet another heated argument. Marvin Gaye’s music is still very popular, with around 20 million streams and downloads per month. His duet with Tammi Terrell, “Ain’t No Mountain,” has been streamed more than a billion times!

The full collection can be seen at Marvin Gaye in Belgium

17 thoughts on “New Marvin Gaye music discovered in Belgium”

  1. I’d seen the headline in the news a few days ago but hadn’t read the story. Fascinating, and what a minefield when it comes to the negotiations

  2. Denzil, have you thought of changing your name to “Discovered in Belgium”? And wasn’t Stephen Fry also “Discovered in Ostend”?

  3. I love Marvin Gaye’s music, some of the best stuff out of Motown, but never knew anything about this period of his life, I hope they can put an album together from these finds. Thanks for this post, Denzil, I’m glad to know what’s going on.

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