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Marvin Gaye: Collection of unreleased songs uncovered in Belgium

Marvin Gaye: Collection of unreleased songs uncovered in Belgium

A collection of cassettes containing unreleased music by Marvin Gaye has been found in the Belgian city Ostend.

This trove of unreleased music has stayed hidden in Belgium for more than 40 years, according to the BBC, along with what looks to be a very valuable collection of memorabilia.

The collection of around 30 tapes has about 66 demos, and belonged to musician Charles Dumolin. Gaye stayed in Dumolin’s house in 1981 while undergoing a detox to fight a cocaine addiction. After Dumolin’s death in 2019, the recordings stayed with his family.

There is already a debate over who owns the tapes, with Belgian lawyer Alex Trappeniers, a business partner of the Dumolin family, telling the BBC: “[The tapes] belong to [the family] because they were left in Belgium 42 years ago. Marvin gave it to them and said, ‘Do whatever you want with it,’ and he never came back. That’s important.”

American soul singer Marvin Gaye in Notting Hill, London (Getty Images)
American soul singer Marvin Gaye in Notting Hill, London (Getty Images)

“At the end when I had listened to all the 30 tapes I had 66 demos of new songs. 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. There was one song that when I listened to it for 10 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,” he added.

Belgian law states that any item becomes the property of the person who has it after 30 years, regardless of how it was acquired. This law, however, does not apply to intellectual property – this would mean that while the Dumolin family own the physical tapes, they do not have the right to publish the music, which would belong to Gaye’s heirs in the United States, who in turn cannot publish without the tapes.

Trappeniers hopes the families can find a compromise.

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

Gaye became extremely popular in the 1970s with hits like “What’s Going On” and “Let’s Get It On”. The singer met with an untimely end in 1984 after his father, Marvin Gay Sr, fatally shot the singer when he stepped in to break up a dispute between his parents.

Last year, singer Ed Sheeran won a lawsuit after he was accussed of plagiarising elements from “Let’s Get It On” without permission.