Pharrell Williams is currently in court, defending himself against claims he copied Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” – but giving it up, he certainly isn’t.
Where does “channeling a feeling” stop and copying a song start? It’s a blurry line.
Pharrell is denying copying the Marvin Gaye track for his “Blurred Lines” single with Robin Thicke. However, the producer and singer has agreed that when he co-wrote the song he was
“channelling… that late-70s feeling.”
Channelling a feeling, not copying a song: Pharrell draws a clear distinction. But the case rests on whether the court agrees.
Gaye’s family are suing Williams, Robin Thicke, and rapper TI over the alleged similarities between Gaye’s 1977 song the 2013 hit. Marvin Gaye’s children, Frankie and Nona, want money from sales and touring, as well as damages. A lawyer for the Gayes initially estimated damages at $40m.
Williams did concede in his testimony to a Los Angeles court on Wednesday that he recognised a likeness, but claimed that Gaye’s work was not on his mind when he wrote the song.
“Sometimes when you look back on your past work, you see echoes of people. But that doesn’t mean that’s what you were doing.”
You can be unconsciously influenced, appears to be what Pharrell is getting at.
All the artists involved in “Blurred Lines” – Williams, Thicke, and rapper TI, whose real name is Clifford Harris Jr – deny copying “Got to Give It Up” for their 2013 release. Williams even tried to smooth the waters by speaking of his love for Gaye.
“The last thing you want to do as a creator is take something of someone else’s when you love him. I respect his music beyond words.”
But maybe not beyond music.
The court played parts of the Williams composition and parts of Gaye’s composition, down to their basic song structure. Hearing the two bass lines, Williams admitted the strong similarities.
“It sounds like you’re playing the same thing.”
Williams argued, though, that the note progressions had been shifted in pitch to sound more alike, comments which appeared to prompt Thicke to leave the courtroom. Both Williams and Thicke have testified that Pharrell Williams was the “principle creator” of “Blurred Lines,” which went on to rake in over $16m in profits, earning the artists a reasonable pay day, which they testified to in court. Last week, Thicke confirmed that he had contributed little to the writing of the song.
Plagiarism isn’t the first controversial accusation leveled at Pharrell this year.
The coming days should reveal whether Pharrell Williams channeled the feeling a little too hard, and whether the Gayes can get a nice slice of the pie.
[Image – Getty Images]