‘Insulting’: Ed Sheeran says he’s done with music if found guilty of stealing Marvin Gaye’s classic tune

Faced with an “insulting” $100 million copyright lawsuit, singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran foretold the future of his music career should he be found guilty over the “striking similarities” of his song to a Marvin Gaye classic.

After the trial had commenced last week, Sheeran appeared in a Manhattan federal court Monday to defend his reputation as an artist after the heirs to Ed Townsend accused him of ripping off the 1973 hit “Let’s Get it On.” Reaching back to 2017, the family of Townsend has alleged that Sheeran’s 2014 song “Thinking Out Loud” violated the copyright of the title co-written with Gaye.

“If that happens, I’m done, I’m stopping,” he told his attorney Ilene Farkas during testimony should he be found guilty. “I find it really insulting to devote my whole life to being a performer and a songwriter and have someone diminish it.”

According to the complaint, “The harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic elements of composition in “Let’s Get it On” have made this song one (1) of the most famous songs in R&B and soul music history. “Let’s” has been anthologized by celebrated music producers and ranked as the 20th greatest breakbeat of all time,” before alleging Sheeran “copied the ‘heart’ of Let’s and repeated it continuously throughout Thinking — the incontrovertible musical similarity has been observed by music industry professionals previously.”

The comparison, according to a video put together by music producer Rick Beato, really depended on what part of the song was being specifically challenged, a point that led billionaire Elon Musk to conclude, “If this keeps going, making new music will be illegal!”

At the trial, the prosecution had asserted that a performance of Sheeran transitioning on stage between his song and Gaye’s was proof of his copyright violation. However, the artist defended himself Monday by stating, “I mash up songs at lots of gigs. Many songs have similar chords. You can go from ‘Let it Be’ to ‘No Woman No Cry’ and switch back.”

“And quite frankly,” he added, “if I’d done what you’re accusing me of doing, I’d be quite an idiot to stand on a stage in front of 20,000 people and do that.”

Sheeran also took umbrage with the plaintiff’s expert witness, musicologist Alexander Stewart, who used computer-generated versions of the songs that the artist alleged were altered to sound far more similar than they actually are.

“If I have to be honest, what he’s doing here is criminal. I don’t know why he’s allowed to be an expert,” Sheeran said.

The suit from Townsend’s heirs is not the first copyright suit faced by the artist as he had previously won a similar challenge after his “Shape of You” was taken to court in the UK over alleged infringement of a 2015 song “Oh Why” by Sami Chokri.

Following his court victory, Sheeran posted a message on social media where he decried the kind of legal battle he faced and said, “Whilst we’re obviously happy with the result, I feel like claims like this are way too common now and have become a culture where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there is no basis for the claim.”

“It’s really damaging to the songwriting industry,” he added. Also noted was the fact that there are a limited number of chords applicable to popular music and only 12 notes to complement them in one combination or another. With tens of millions of songs produced every year, there are bound to be coincidences.

An example of this was readily demonstrated by the Australian comedy group Axis of Awesome when they played a montage of popular four-chord songs:

Warning: Language


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