(New York) Did one of the kings of pop, the British Ed Sheeran, plagiarize Marvin Gaye’s famous song, Let’s get it on, for his worldwide success Thinking out loud? A jury, whose selection is due to begin Monday in federal court in New York, will have to answer the question.
In April 2022, the 32-year-old singer and songwriter won a similar but separate court battle when the High Court in London dismissed two musicians accusing him of copying one of their works, for his smash hit Shape of You.
This time, the plaintiffs are the heirs of Ed Townsend, an American musician and producer who co-wrote Let’s get it on with Marvin Gaye. Released in 1973, this soul classic has remained famous for its guitar notes and sultry vocals from the Prince of Motown.
In their copyright claim, Townsend’s heirs, including his daughter, claim there are “striking similarities” to 2014’s Thinking Out Loud.
They want proof that the group Boyz 2 Men had mixed the two songs on stage. Ed Sheeran himself had chained in concert the lines of voices, very different, of the two tubes, on the same guitar harmonies, a sequence still visible on the internet.
“Proof” disputed by the singer’s lawyers, for whom “there are dozens, if not hundreds of songs before and after Let’s get it on that use the same chord progression or a similar progression”.
Ed Sheeran’s success ranked 2nd on the Billboard Hot 100, the American reference ranking, and won the Grammy Award for best song of the year in 2016.
The complaint, filed in 2016, was first dismissed for a procedural issue, then refiled in 2017, also against Sony.
Ed Sheeran had come in person to defend his song Shape of you in the previous trial in London, a case he considered emblematic of abusive practices that undermine creation. He may also be present during the trial in New York.
The judge agreed with him, finding that he had not copied, even “unknowingly”, part of the melody of the song Oh Why (2015) by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue.
The judge had noted “obvious similarities” between the two songs, with a melody resulting in particular from the minor pentatonic scale like “countless songs of pop, rock, folk and blues”, but also “significant differences”.