Marvin Gaye - "Got To Give It Up"

Last week, attorneys for Robin Thicke and his “Blurred Lines” collaborators Pharrell and T.I. confused me enormously when they filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against Marvin Gaye’s estate and against Funkadelic rights-holders Bridgeport Music. The idea, as I understood it, was this: Thicke and his people feared that the Gaye family and Bridgeport Music might sue over alleged similarities between “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” and/or Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways,” so they were suing first. It seemed weird: Aren’t you supposed to wait until the other people sue to launch your countersuit? But perhaps Thicke and his people had reason to fear.

Before filing that lawsuit, Billboard reports that Thicke’s people offered the Gaye family a “six-figure” settlement, just to avoid any possible copyright court battle. The Gaye family rejected them. Gaye’s son Marvin Gaye III has told TMZ, “We’re not happy with the way that he went about doing business let alone suing us for something where he clearly got his inspiration from at the least.”

Here’s the thing, though. If “inspiration” suddenly becomes a justifiable basis for a lawsuit, nobody is ever going to be able to make new music again. “Blurred Lines” and “Got To Give It Up” are totally different songs. (Great songs, too, I’d argue.) Thicke has already admitted to an influence, and there’s perhaps some similarity in the drum patterns. But it’s not like Thicke was out here swiping hooks. And while it might be nice to see the Velvet Underground or the Replacements suddenly getting crazy rich, this would set a truly dangerous precedent. We’ll have to see how it plays out.

Comments (7)
  1. “Got To Give It Up” should refer to the Gaye family’s next step with this lawsuit. There is no infringement here.

  2. This is just bizarre. Sure, ‘Blurred Lines’ was inspired by ‘Got to Give It Up’ and the 70s. A lot of the SOUNDS are similar – the bass, the percussion. But the actual patterns and riffs seem very different to me. It’s not like Santana could go around suing if people were using his guitar tone, so I don’t see how Thicke could be (successfully) sued for this.

  3. Beyond the fact that it’s not similar enough to sue, I’m confused by this whole thing. Thicke sampled Marvin Gaye legally a couple of albums ago and credited him as a songwriter. Why would he “steal” without permission a few years later from the same artist?

  4. I just want to say that, no, Blurred Lines is not a great song. But I agree there’s no infringement in this case, and that it would best for the Gaye family to leave this one alone.

    • I agree – there’s no infringement, and no reasonable court would rule otherwise. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Blurred Lines is a great song either – catchy and fun, but a novelty, the musical equivalent of cotton candy – tasty but forgettable, and makes you feel ill after awhile.

      But I think it’s strange you’re saying the Gaye family should “leave this one alone”. Thicke and co. sued them. Thicke and co. offered them a six-figure settlement. Thicke and co. should have just let it alone and let the courts deal with it if something was actually filed, since the courts would most likely rule in Thicke’s favor. The songs are similar in style, not in composition.

      The biggest question mark for me is why Funkadelic’s Sexy Ways is part of this – is there anyone out there who hears any similarity?

  5. publicity stunt. They sued to get us all talking about it and the music sites to report on it. and it worked!

    also, I’m sure the Gayes will eventually settle, but as part of negotiating are simply rejecting the first offer.

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