It’s been 30 years since Marvin Gaye tragically passed away much too soon. Many people don’t know that toward the end of his life the singer lived for about two years in a small town in Belgium named Ostend. He went there to recover after years of living a turbulent life involving drugs, financial woes and two failing marriages.
While in Belgium, he was the subject of a local TV special called “Marvin Gaye: Transit Ostend”. It’s available on Youtube and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the life of Marvin Gaye.
In the early 80’s Gaye was heavily addicted to cocaine, owed large amounts of money to the IRS and was in the process of splitting up with his second wife Janis Hunter. He’d been living in London where he’d become deeply immersed in the local drug scene when Freddy Cousaert, a Belgian DJ, club owner and boxing promoter who was a fan of Gaye’s took him to Belgium with hopes of cleaning him up.
Gaye was also struggling to regain his past musical success when hits like “Whats Goin On” and “Lets Get It On” had made him a soul superstar in the 70’s. In 1981 the 42 year old Gaye arrived in Ostend with his son Bubby and settled in an apartment by the idyllic waterfront in the small beach town. He was to remain there for almost two years.
The documentary is an interesting look into the mind of the singer at the time. It’s narrated by Marvin himself in his characteristic soft spoken voice and he talks about many things including his family problems, the racial situation in America and his love of music. Among other things we see him jogging on the beach, mingling with locals at a bar and boxing in a gym.
The highlights are perhaps the footage of Marvin doing what he does best. We see him rehearsing with his band in a very laid back style and performing solo renditions of “Distant Lover” and “Get To This” at the piano. He also performs a moving version of “The Lord’s Prayer” in an abandoned church.
This is really a fascinating look into a little known chapter of Gaye’s life. While in Belgium he started working on a comeback album that would become an international smash and bring him back to the top of the charts. In 1982 he had one of the biggest hits of his career with “Sexual Healing” before tragically being shot and killed by his father in 1984.
Watch the full movie here.