I have seen a lot of folks, particularly friends who are musicians, sharing insights and opinions regarding what the “Blurred Lines” verdict could mean for the industry overall. Zach Jones, a Los Angeles-based musician with Maine roots, shared the following on Facebook and gave me permission to share it here.
The first time that I ever heard ‘Blurred Lines’ I thought, hey, that’s Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’; which I listened to immediately after and realized that though very similar in feel, they were two very different songs. After that, I kind of just forgot about it, until I started hearing about all the legal proceedings.
Though there’s something strangely satisfying about seeing Robin Thicke and Pharrell lose a court case to the Gaye family, the jury’s decision could send us all down a slippery slope. Artists of all mediums have always been influenced by other artists and have always built on what has come before in order to create something new.
As a songwriter and musician, I wear my influences right on my sleeves and I don’t care who sees it. Proudly displaying my musical influence is part of my own identity. When I write a song that ends up sounding like something Paul McCartney would have written, it makes me happy. I embrace it. Should I run in fear from that now? What does this mean?
Marvin Gaye himself was inspired to write ‘Got To Give It Up’ after hearing Johnie Taylor’s ‘Disco Lady’, though the influence is more prominent in the lyrics than in the overall feel of the track.
In the case of ‘Blurred Lines’, the only thing really similar is the overall feel of the track, which is immediately relatable upon first listen to ‘Got To Give It Up’. On almost every other technical musical level, it’s very different. Even the basic rhythms are different, but what if they were the same? Like this article says: It’s an old music-industry truism that you can’t copyright a rhythm. (If you could, Bo Diddley would have died a billionaire.)
So now what?