“Blurred Lines” became a huge hit for producer Pharrell Williams and artist Robin Thicke. Not only was the song the biggest hit of Thicke’s career, it’s made over $17 million for the two and $750,000 for rapper T.I., who added a verse to the song.
But for some music experts and industry insiders, the so-called ‘homage’ to Marvin Gaye sounded like more than a tribute. It sounded like copyright infringement. Williams and Thicke preemptively sued the Gaye family to stop them for attempting to claim the song as Gaye’s.
On March 10, Thicke and Williams lost and the Gaye family was awarded $7.4 million.
“It could have been avoided, says Janis Gaye, Marvin Gaye’s ex-wife and mother of two of his three children, including singer/actress Nona Gaye.
“If they had just come to us like Eric Sermon came to us, he played it for us. The song was called ‘Music’ great hit for him and we loved it. And he credited Marvin for the song which was so important to us. It was his idea. It was a given that Marvin would get credit because it was Marvin’s song.”
Janis says that when the family initially heard “Blurred Lines,” they were excited, because they believed that Gaye’s music was reaching a new generation through the popularity of the song.
“My first thought was here’s ‘Got to Give It Up’ in 2015. It had been given a new go-round. So we were really happy. My grandson heard it, he’s 17, and he was like ‘Wow, that’s Grandpa’s music.’ Nona, Marvin and Frankie heard it and we were all really happy until we found out that there was no [licensing], no nothing.”
Another Thicke song, “Million Dollar Baby” often mentioned as another example of Thicke’s use of Gaye’s work, was properly credited and licensed to Gaye. (Janis says the family is not pursuing any case over Williams’ hit song “Happy” which is another song some say contains elements of Gaye’s music.)
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the Gaye family that sued Williams and Thicke. Williams and Thicke took the Gaye family to court, so that a ruling would be made to determine that “Blurred Lines” had not significantly taken from “Got To Give It Up.”
“I had no idea that it was coming and we were baffled,” says Janis. “What are you suing us for? What did we do? So we had to retain counsel and luckily we got great attorneys.”
Surprisingly, Janis is not against sampling or artists using music to craft new songs. She just believes that if songs are used, they should be credited.
“I’m not going to say all of today’s musician are lazy,” says Janis. “It’s not like when we were coming up and things were more organic. I’m not going to put everyone in one boat.”
What would Marvin have thought of his music being jacked? Janis says had he been alive, things might have gotten a lot testier.
“I don’t think he’d be saying anything about it because it wouldn’t have happened. If he’d gone into a studio or picked up a phone, it wouldn’t have been nothing nice. He wouldn’t have stood for it,” Janis says. “He wouldn’t have stood for anyone taking his music and copying it.”
Williams and other musicians have bemoaned the “Blurred Lines” verdict as the end to creativity, believing most music is inspired directly or indirectly by other works. But Janis doesn’t believe that will be result of the favorable verdict. Since the trial, there’s been another positive byproduct for the family – sales of Gaye’s music have leaped $246% in the last month.
“I don’t think this is the end of the music business because of ‘Blurred Lines.’ God Bless all musicians.”
(Photo: Entertainment Tonight Screenshot)