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Marvin Gaye, Chicken Curry and Ostend

Bronze statue of Marvin Gaye playinga piano

Marvin Gaye playing in the lobby of the casino in Ostend

I can hear the dribbling of basketballs echo from the hundred year old wooden buildings surrounding the basketball court. Originally commissioned by Leopold II as barracks, it has been long since been converted into a sports center and a basketball court; and this is where Marvin Gaye used to play with the local Belgian team.

It seems an odd place to play hoops, but what’s even more puzzling is imagining Marvin Gaye running up and down the court throwing the ball with the local players. We couldn’t be further from US… Well, alright, technically we could be, but you know what I mean; it’s completely different to the basket ball courts of US, or at least to my Hollywood movie based idea of what American basketball courts must be like.

It is far from US, far from Motown, but this is where Marvin Gaye wrote his biggest hit, Sexual Healing. Well, alright, not on the basketball court most likely, I mean, it’s a bit difficult to write and shoot hoops, but we do know he wrote it in Ostend in Belgium.

Wooden building with basketball court

This is where Marvin used to play basketball

Big red sculpture

Ostend, city of contrasts

He had been down on his luck with struggling record sales, tax problems, failed marriages and drug addiction. He definitely had his demons chasing him when a music promoter from Ostend called Freddy Cousaert visited him in London and convinced him to visit. He did, and he stayed, for two years.

On one hand it’s difficult to see why he’d settle here for two years. The music scene probably wasn’t quite as impressive as back in the US and cocaine was (I’d imagine) a lot harder to come by, but on the other hand it makes sense. He came here for the same reason lots of people come here for the weekend, to get away for a while. His quick weekend getaway took two years, but then again he wasn’t into doing anything in half measures; whether that was soul hits, drugs or weekend getaways.

So it was here he spent two years playing basketball, walking around in his tracksuit, jamming with local musicians and shooting darts in the pub. And he sucked at darts; I mean I suck at darts too, but I would’ve totally kicked his ass. Thankfully in the end he returned to his music.

By the sea

By the sea

Zen garden

There is even a Zen garden

It’s easy to see why he enjoyed Ostend, it’s a nice town with kilometers of beach, nice pubs and great food. His favorite chef even designed a dish for him, a Chicken curry, which I can highly recommend. The other food he was keen on was sole, which he used to call sole food (sole, soul, right? Sigh, seriously Marvin, just stick to soul music).

Alright so maybe Marvin Gaye by itself isn’t a reason enough to visit Ostend (unless you’re a huge fan), but you can visit for the same reasons he did, to get away for a quick weekend.

Chicken curry

Marvin Gaye’s chicken curry

Waffes with ice cream and chocolate sauce

Waffles, nuff’ said

Tips for following in Marvin Gaye’s footsteps in Ostend, Belgium:

  • You can hire an iPod tour from the tourism office; the tour comes with a map and an iPod
  • The walk will take about three hours
  • Consider using a bike
  • Maybe stop by for a coffee at Cafe Florida where Marvin Gaye used to frequent
  • For lunch, Chicken curry or sole (…)
  • The casino isn’t open until later, so you’ll want to wait until evening to check out the bronze statue of Marvin Gaye
Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Ostend Casino at night

The Casino where Marvin Gaye had his return concert

Bronze Marvin Gaye statue

Bronze statue of Marvin Gaye in Ostend

Disclaimer: I was hosted by the Ostend Tourism board, but all topics, opinions and bad puns are my own (except the one about sole food, that’s not mine, okay).

Have you ever visited a place just for something music related?

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