Influence, Integrity and Marvin Gaye

In August 2013, lawyers representing recording artists Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams filed a preemptive lawsuit in defense of their chart-topping single, “Blurred Lines.” Fearing litigation from the family of Marvin Gaye due to the song’s striking similarities to his 1977 hit “Got to Give it Up,” Thicke and Williams teamed up. Their inclination could not have been more accurate, as a court has recently ordered approximately $7.4 million to be paid by the hit-making team to the Gaye family, mainly over copyright infringement.

The similarities between both songs are evident. It is clear that the original influenced Thicke’s and Williams’s creation. Williams publicly stated that he was going for “that late seventies feeling.” Mr. Thicke also tried to prove his case by singing to the jury a medley of songs sharing the same chord progression and similar melodies. Yet equally as clear was the possibility that “Blurred Lines” was not only influenced by “Got to Give it Up”, but went a step further by not giving the original specific or adequate credit. In a historic victory for the Gaye family, the jury found Thicke and Williams guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the world of music, borrowing, influencing, and even theft are commonplace. This case raises the question as to how can we, as a society, promote music that is intrinsically inspired by a host of influences while maintaining a level of integrity. What appears to leave distaste with listeners is not the fact that two songs may sound the same, but that one author took from another without enough permission.

— Jeremy Syrop, Zeteo Contributor

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