I’ve written here before, that music is one of the passions of my life, and waking up this morning to hear the news that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke are being forced by the courts to pay the estate of Marvin Gaye over $7.4M in damages for their song “Blurred Lines”. A jury found that Williams and Thicke stole the song from a 1971 hit of Marvin Gay titled “Got to Give it Up” after being sued by Gaye’s children.
There is little to no question that Blurred Lines was the biggest hit of 2013. Matter of fact, the YouTube video has over 370 million views. On top of that, you have the supreme hit of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and Pharrell’s work on NBC’s the voice, has put him near the top of the list of songwriters who have proven that they can produce one chart topping hit after another. There is no question that being found guilty will not only take a toll on Pharrell’s wallet, but sadly his reputation as well.
Here are both songs if you would like to see the similarities.
I’m no expert, I can hear some similarities between the two songs, but in my opinion, there isn’t enough there to hand down a judgment in copyright infringement. Humans have been writing music for hundreds of years. There are only so many notes on a piano, guitar, etc. Millions of new songs are created each year, and with a victory in a suit like this, it could be a very bad sign for artists in the future. When you sit down, let your juices of creativity flow, and construct what you feel is an outstanding piece of music, how are you going to be able to confirm that another artist didn’t already use those combination of chords or notes?
It was just last month that Sam Smith settled out of court after being accused of copyright infringement with his Grammy winning Song of the Year, “Stay With Me” was just about an exact ripoff of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”. After listening to those two songs, its readily apparent that they are about the same song from verse to bridge to chorus.
Those two occurrences illustrate exactly what makes items like this so difficult to determine as to what was done maliciously and what was not. We hear music all the times in our day to day life. Whether it is a commercial on television, the background music in an elevator, or at our own doing. Our ears and even are subconscious are constantly taking in information, and I have a hard time punishing someone for a creation. Pharrell has even said, that Marvin Gaye has always been an influence on his writing style. I share Pharrell’s belief that anything he would have done would have been in homage to Gaye, and not trying to take anything a way from him. Its just a shame that the courts have to get involved to settle something like this, and sincerely hope it doesn’t curb creativity going forward.