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Marvin Gaye’s estate is suing Ed Sheeran. Listen and you be the judge.

Back in 2018, the estate of Marvin Gaye successfully sued Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over “Blurred Lines” because a jury agreed that the song sounded–or rather, felt–too much like Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” Since then, songwriters have been terrified to pay homage to their heroes or display their influences in anything they do. Who wants to get sued?

Now the same Gaye estate is suing Ed Sheeran. The allegation is that Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” has “striking similarities” to and contains “overt common elements” with Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” Jury selection began today (April 24) in a suit that was filed in 2017. A 95-year-old judge is overseeing the case.

Such cases are very complicated and require specific types of testimony and expertise. But for us lay people, let’s just lay the two songs side by side so we can examine the main sonic issues at the heart of the case: melody, harmony, lyrics, and to a lesser extent, rhythm. Keep in mind that you cannot copyright chord progressions. You tell me. Do these songs share enough “striking similarities” and “overt common elements?”

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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8 thoughts on “Marvin Gaye’s estate is suing Ed Sheeran. Listen and you be the judge.

  • Any sane person would argue that these are obviously different songs. Yes, some sonic similarities, but there’s nothing untoward happening here.

    In light of the Blurred Lines case though, I think Ed might be in trouble.

    Reply
    • Agreed; the paid cords that provide consistent beat throughout both songs might be the only thing that provides difficulty similarity to warrant any attention…. But goodness that would indict a lot of other music’

      Reply
    • Agreed; the paid cords that provide consistent beat throughout both songs might be the only thing that provides difficulty similarity to warrant any attention…. But goodness that would indict a lot of other music!

      Reply
  • I’m tired of reading about these obviously predatory cases. It’s expensive for the person being sued and just to avoid the cost of a huge lawsuit, they often have to settle for tons of money. It’s terrible. From my ears, it’s obvious they are different songs. Robin Thicke obviously stole Gaye’s song in another of his songs but it wasn’t Blurred Lines which to me did NOT resemble Gaye’s song Give it Up, except for the beat. They are always targeting people with money.

    Reply
  • Ridiculous. Two entirely different songs. There are only so many notes & chords, even fewer that are palatable within western popular music. The Blurred Lines judgement, while not without its merits, was too vague and has opened the door to these predatory lawsuits. Just wait until A.I. starts churning out pop music…slimeball lawyers are drooling at the prospect.

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    • Completely ridiculous. I just see a money grubbing family, ruining the good memories of Marvin Gaye all in the name of greed. It is almost as if they are looking around, seeing Mr. Sheeran’s wealth and thinking, “That’s an easy mark”.

      I really hope that they lose on this one, and lose big so that they go away and leave other artists alone.

      Reply
  • Fine then, let’s be bitchy about it…

    I’m Eddy and his people….”okay all radio stations and streaming services, I want this song to be dropped from everywhere immediately and every album sold from this second does not have the track in question.”…Let’s dry up the money and see where it this goes….

    Reply

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