I made my way to the tourist information centre, where I was given headphones and an iPhone with a built-in app called ‘The Marvin Gaye Midnight Love Tour’. Developed in 2011, it is the first and only organised tour dedicated to the memory of Marvin Gaye in the city, where he wrote the album that managed to get his wayward career all too briefly back on course. History has been kind to Marvin, who is now generally considered one of the most important musicians of the 20th century, so it is hard to believe the sad state of affairs his life was in shortly before his death.
British soul singer Jamie Liddell, who hosts various videos included on the app, reminds us how, like the city of Ostend, Marvin’s star had long since faded when he made the journey there…
“By the late winter of 1981 Marvin Gaye’s career and personal life were at an ebb. After a disastrous European tour and stranded in London, Marvin faced two failed marriages, four million dollars of debt to the IRS, the end of a long time partnership with Motown Records, drug addiction and depression.”
The Midnight Love tour started at the beach, looking out over the stark ‘Nordzee’, where my audio guide told how Marvin’s sojourn to Belgium came to be. Concert promoter and Ostend resident Freddie Couseart, a long time fan of Marvin Gaye, had the dream of getting the singer to perform at the local Kursaal Casino. His obsession, like so many European promoters of black music, seems to have been born out of a mixture of shrewd opportunism, a kind of egoic lust for black music collector-kudos and a genuine love of the man and the music. Ultimately though, this fandom would lead to his own exploitation.