On Sunday, February 24, after close to three decades in the film industry, BlacKkKlansman director Spike Lee finally won his first Oscar. While Lee was still busy celebrating his win this week, he discovered he now has new legal problems linked to a movie he made back in the 1990s, and a Prince song that appeared in the film.
Lee was a longtime friend of Prince. In 1996, the two friends got together to work on a film Lee was directing titled Girl 6. Prince collaborated with Lee on the film, and the famous musician both wrote and performed the title track for Girl 6. However, recent court documents filed against both Lee and Prince’s estate claim that a man named James Brandon wrote the song initially, before Prince. Now, Brandon has filed a lawsuit over Girl 6, pointing fingers at both Prince and Lee for copyright infringement, according to TMZ.
Brandon’s court documents state that back in 1996, he was performing in a band called GOMAB. At the time, he had a meeting with Clarence Lee, who is Spike Lee’s uncle. Clarence Lee was interested in one of GOMAB’s songs from 1993, which was titled “Phone Sex.” Clarence Lee offered to take that particular GOMAB song to Spike Lee to see if his nephew wanted to use it in one of his films, according to The Blast.
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So, why was Clarence Lee interested in taking GOMAB’s “Phone Sex” song to Spike Lee? Clarence was aware that Spike was working on the Girl 6 movie, which features the story of a phone sex operator, played by actress Theresa Randle. Somewhere in between Brandon’s meeting with Clarence and the finalization of the film, Spike decided to use Prince’s music for the film instead.
When the film opened in 1996, Brandon claims he heard several similarities between his song and Prince’s, according to TMZ. Brandon specifically claims that both the vocals and the trumpets used in Prince’s song demonstrate striking resemblances to the song he wrote in 1993, “Phone Sex.”
Brandon also asserts that his song and Prince’s both feature a similar melody, and it sounds like Prince changed out Brandon’s hook in his lyrics. Brandon’s hook uses the phrase “Phone sex,” while Prince’s song uses the hook “Girls six.” As a result, Brandon is now suing both Spike Lee and Prince’s estate for all of the profits they pocketed from the song.
So far, Spike Lee has not commented publicly on the situation.