Midnight Love (Part 5): The Marvin Gaye Tour of Ostend, Belgium.

For true art to appear, the artist has to disappear, detaching himself from ego and status, but also from the pressure to achieve anything other than a personal vision, and in Ostende it seems Marvin was allowed to be anonymous. Funded by Courseart, he was also given the freedom to create at his own pace, without the financial worries. Gaye was notorious for being a terrible businessman (his friend once said to him “Marvin, you must have earned four or five million by now.” Apparently Marvin looked at him, smiled and said: “Brother, I have probably made four or five million three times over!”), but Couseart had both money and financial acumen, setting him up with his own flat, feeding him healthy food and encouraging a daily fitness regime.

The tour led me away from the beach and towards a pretty building on a quiet street that used to be the Couseart’s family-run ‘Hotel Mercury’, where Marvin would spend his afternoons hanging out in the kitchen eating chicken, bantering with the staff and relaxing with the Cousearts. Lillian, Freddie’s wife, had the same kind of straight talking, down to earth manner her husband had, and remembered how Marvin was surprised to have people caring for him in such a way. It was modest food, served in a modest setting, and yet he was touched. “He was surprised that people cared for him. And he said that my cooking was soul food,” said Mrs Couseart.

At the end of the street was a rotting statue of Leopold I, and just around the corner, on Warschaustrasse, a set of drab 1970s apartments, which Marvin called home in his first few months.

Marvin's first apartment in Ostend.

Marvin’s first apartment in Ostend.

Five minutes later I arrived at a series of strange, ornate dark wooden buildings, originally commissioned by King Leopold II to be royal stables. They were designed by a Norwegian architect in a Scandinavian Art Nouveau Style, and like everything else in the city connected with the king, they took on an evil appearance in my eyes, looking like something straight out of Mordor in ‘Lord of The Rings’. Despite getting listed status in the 1980s, they were downtrodden, and being used as a lowly sports centre, with ageing basketballs courts, a large indoor sports hall and a boxing club. It was here that Marvin Gaye boxed with Freddie Couseart’s brother and began his long road back to health. The club hadn’t changed for thirty years, so it looked exactly the same as it did in the accompanying clip on the app, which shows Marvin’s proficient boxing skills and a clip of him saying, out of breath: “My next fight is gonna be my wife… fifteen round elimination bout for all the property.”

Marvin's old boxing gym at King Leopold II's Royal Stables

Marvin’s old boxing gym at King Leopold II’s Royal Stables

NEXT: Marvin Gaye – Midnight Love Part 6: King Leopold’s ghost, truthful forms, and phlegm.


Afropean, writer, photographer, broadcaster, music geek.

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