Unreleased Marvin Gaye music unearthed in Belgium as legal proceedings loom

Marvin Gaye performs on opening night at Radio City Music Hall in New York - 17 May 1983
Marvin Gaye performs on opening night at Radio City Music Hall in New York - 17 May 1983 Copyright AP Photo/Nancy Kaye
Copyright AP Photo/Nancy Kaye
By David Mouriquand
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
Copy/paste the article video embed link below:Copy to clipboardCopied

Debate has begun over the ownership of demo tapes reportedly left by late soul legend to his Belgian hosts while he was living there in the early 80s.


It’s been 40 years to the day since Marvin Gaye died in Los Angeles - shot dead by his father after Gaye stepped in to break up an altercation between his father and his mother – a day before his 45th birthday.

Now, a collection of unreleased Marvin Gaye recordings has been unearthed in Belgium after more than 40 years.

The tapes apparently have 66 demos of new and and previously unheard songs that the soul singer behind hits like 'What’s Going On', 'Let’s Get It On' and the duet 'Ain't No Mountain' with Tammi Terrell, recorded while in the country in the early ’80s. He left the tapes with Charles Dumolin, a musician who housed Gaye during his time in Belgium.

The Dumolin family is now working with a lawyer to figure out what to do with the tapes, as well as what is likely a highly valuable collection of stage costumes and notebooks which were also discovered alongside the tapes.

“They belong to (the family) because they were left in Belgium 42 years ago,” Alex Trappeniers, lawyer and business partner of the Dumolin family, told BBC. “Marvin gave it to them and said, ‘Do whatever you want with it’ and he never came back. That’s important.”

A Belgian law that states any property in one’s possession, even if it’s stolen, becomes yours after 30 years. However, that does not extend to intellectual property. This means that the Dumolin family could end up as the owners of the physical tapes, without the right to publish the songs. That right may instead belong to Gaye’s heirs in the US.

Marvin Gaye
Marvin GayeGetty Images

The Dumolin family is hoping to reach some kind of compromise with Gaye’s estate in order to release the music.

“We can open a time capsule here and share the music of Marvin with the world,” Trappeniers said. “It’s very clear. He’s very present.”

“I think we both benefit, the family of Marvin and the collection in the hands of (Dumolin’s heirs),” Trappeniers continued. “If we put our hands together and find the right people in the world, the Mark Ronsons or the Bruno Mars…. I’m not here to make suggestions but to say OK, let’s listen to this and let’s make the next album.”

Lawyers representing the Marvin Gaye estate have been made aware of the existence of the tapes, although it’s unclear if they are looking to negotiate.

Marvin Gaye commemoration statue in Ostend
Marvin Gaye commemoration statue in OstendGetty Images

Gaye had a strong connection to Belgium, as he moved there in 1981, seeking refuge from personal struggles, a strong cocaine addiction, and wishing to revitalise his career. The "Prince of Motown" moved to the coastal city of Ostend, and it was during this time that he recorded one of his biggest hits: ‘Sexual Healing’.

Ostend even erected a statue of Gaye to commemorate his time in the city (see above). 

Ain't no mountain high
Ain't no valley low,
Ain't no Belgian hideaway wide enough, baby...

Additional sources • BBC

Share this articleComments

You might also like