Frankie Christian Gaye, Marvin Gaye III, and Nona Marvisa Gaye claim that Thicke’s summer smash “Blurred Lines” is a little bit more than borrowed from Marvin’s hit “Got to Give It Up,” but they’ve reportedly rejected a six-figure offer to settle without taking legal action.
Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and Clifford Harris, Jr., sued earlier in the month to protect “Blurred Lines” and one other song from claims that they had the same “feel” as Gaye’s tune. The Hollywood Reporter obtained a copy of the suit, which stated:
Plaintiffs, who have the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic and their musical legacies, reluctantly file this action in the face of multiple adverse claims from alleged successors in interest to those artists. Defendants continue to insist that plaintiffs’ massively successful composition, ‘Blurred Lines,’ copies ‘their’ compositions.
Samples are rampant in pop, R&B, and hip-hop music, and at this stage of the game in any popular genre, it’s foolish to think that most things won’t sound at least a little bit like something that came before. There are extreme situations, like Chic’s “Good Times,” that has been sampled too many times to count, and most famously The Sugarhill Gang in “Rapper’s Delight,” to the point where Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards gained songwriting credits after legal action. George Harrison was found guilty of “subconscious plagiarism” for the similarities between “My Sweet Lord” and The Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine.” The WhoSampled? site lists several songs that supposedly contain samples of “Got to Give it Up” (“Shake Your Body Down to the Ground,” really?), but the sources aren’t specific.
It gets a little more complicated when Robin Thicke goes on record with his desire to mimic the song he’s suing to say he didn’t intend to completely mimic:
Pharrell and I were in the studio and I told him that one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” I was like, “Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove.” Then he started playing a little something and we literally wrote the song in about a half hour and recorded it.
I mean, arguably speaking, it could be pretty easy to write a song in half an hour if you already had a groove, that as it happens is more or less the whole song, to base it on, right?
Hard to say. Intellectual property laws can involve lots of, well, blurred lines, especially if it isn’t outright copying but simply a reflection of inspiration. Regardless, the Gaye family is at least six figures not interested in settling yet, so the next phase remains to be seen. Meanwhile, you can take a listen to the two tracks, and decide for yourself.
Here’s the video for “Got to Give It Up.” (Full disclosure: It’s high on my list of “grooviest songs to ever groove,” and now my inability to kick the “Blurred Lines” habit this summer is making just a bit more sense.)
And here’s “Blurred Lines.”