British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran says he’ll quit music if he loses a $100 million plagiarism suit filed by the heirs of Ed Townsend, the co-writer of the late Marvin Gaye’s 1973 classic “Let’s Get it On.”
Townsend’s heirs took the 32-year-old Sheeran to a Manhattan court over his song “Thinking Out Loud.”
While on the stand, Sheeran said what he’ll do if found guilty by the jury. “If that happens, I’m done, I’m stopping,” he promised.
“I find it really insulting to devote my whole life to being a performer and a songwriter and have someone diminish it,” he added.
Here’s the YouTube video of Sheeran’s song in question:
Here’s an intelligent examination of both songs:
In my opinion, there is nothing that even comes close to plagiarism.
This is plagiarism—undoubtedly unintentional plagiarism, which is why the late and greatly missed Tom Petty handled it like a gentleman:
So, all I’m seeing in the Marvin Gaye case is a naked and desperate money grab:
At the Manhattan federal court last week, lawyers for Townsend’s heirs displayed a video of Sheeran transitioning seamlessly between ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and ‘Let’s Get it On’ during a live performance.
Doing so, they said, amounted to a confession that he had ripped off the song.
But in court on Monday, Sheeran said he and other performers frequently perform ‘mash ups,’ and that he had on other occasions combined ‘Thinking Out Loud’ with Van Morrison’s ‘Crazy in Love’ and Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You.’
Similar is not plagiarism, and out of an entire song, which sounds nothing like Let’s Get it On, we’re talking about four similar chords—well, only three really are.
This naked and shameless money grab should not have even made it into a courtroom.
And my guess—and this is just a guess—is that if Gaye and Townsend were still living, it would not have. Both men were accomplished musicians who would not have wanted to see a courtroom set a precedent where “similar” becomes a $100 million plagiarism suit. The effects that would have on songwriting and all things creative would be crippling as well as stifling.
Cards on the table… I proposed writing this story because the thought of teeing off on Sheeran sounded fun, especially defending The Mighty Marvin Gaye. I couldn’t wait to write, “Oh, you’re threatening to quit music? Well, those terms are acceptable.” But then I listened to Sheeran’s song and couldn’t believe he was being sued. Had I not been primed to listen for something similar to “Let’s Get it On,” I would never have picked up on it—and I’ve listened to “Let’s Get it On” hundreds and hundreds of times.
What a stupid lawsuit.
Sheeran has every right to be angry. He should countersue for legal costs.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.
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