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Lost tracks recorded by Marvin Gaye uncovered in Belgium: ‘As good as Sexual Healing’

Soul singer Marvin Gaye playing piano in a recording studio circa 1974
Soul singer Marvin Gaye playing piano in a recording studio circa 1974

Four decades after the death of Marvin Gaye, new music from the late artist could be on the horizon.

The surprise news comes thanks to a Belgian musician named Charles Dumolin, who hosted the R&B legend at his Ostend home for a time. Dumolin has revealed a never-before-seen collection of costumes, letters, notebooks and dozens of recordings that had been stowed away for decades.

“We can open a time capsule here and share the music of Marvin with the world,” Alex Trappeniers, a Belgian lawyer and a business partner of Dumolin’s family, told the BBC. “It’s very clear. He’s very present.”

“We can open a time capsule here and share the music of Marvin with the world,” said Trappeniers. Mark Sullivan
“We can open a time capsule here and share the music of Marvin with the world,” said Trappeniers. Mark Sullivan

According to the BBC, Gaye — who was shot and killed by his father in 1984 during a domestic altercation — left the items with Dumolin’s family in Belgium, where they have kept the pieces of musical history in their home for more than 40 years.

Now, though, the future of the demos and belongings still hang in the balance.

“They belong to [the family] because they were left in Belgium 42 years ago,” Trappeniers explained.

He combed through the behemoth collection of recordings, flagging 66 demos of new material across the 30 tapes.

“A few of them are complete and a few of them are as good as ‘Sexual Healing,’ because it was made in the same time,” he said.

He added: “There was one song that when I listened to it for ten seconds I found the music was in my head all day, the words were in my head all day, like a moment of planetary alignment.”

Gaye left a trove of costumes, notebooks, letters and demo tapes with a family in Ostend, Belgium more than 40 years ago. Getty Images
Gaye left a trove of costumes, notebooks, letters and demo tapes with a family in Ostend, Belgium more than 40 years ago. Getty Images

While the world may want to feast their ears on the capsule of songs from the late singer — described by the BBC as a “spine-tingling” experience — it’s not as simple as it seems.

“Marvin gave it to them and said, ‘Do whatever you want with it’ and he never came back. That’s important,” Trappeniers said.

Because Gaye gifted the trove of items to the late Dumolin, it legally belongs to his family, according to Trappeniers, and Belgian law indicates that, after 30 years, any item is legally yours.

Trappeniers is pondering the possibility of a compromise with Gaye’s family so that the music can be released into the world. Getty Images
Trappeniers is pondering the possibility of a compromise with Gaye’s family so that the music can be released into the world. Getty Images

That regulation, however, does not apply to intellectual property, under which music would fall, meaning the Dumolin family, who own the songs but not the rights to publish.

According to the BBC, it is unclear how Gaye’s children — Marvin III, Nona and Frankie — have reacted to the discovery, however, lawyers for two of the three heirs have been made aware of the collection across the pond.

Trappeniers believes a compromise may be able to be reached with the Gaye family in the US, who could publish the music.

“I think we both benefit, the family of Marvin and the collection in the hands of [Dumolin’s heirs],” he said. “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.”

It wouldn’t be the first time a legendary musical artist has released decades-old posthumous music — just look at The Beatles’ track “Now and Then,” released just last year.

But the music also runs the risk of being exploited, Trappeniers explained. The Dumolin family has the right to sell the collection, he said, and there’s a possibility that a buyer could produce the tracks as their own.

“Morally,” Trappeniers added, “I’d like to work with the family but this is the nightmare for them… that someone comes from a country where there’s a lot of money and we make an agreement and this collection leaves this country.”