Song of the Day #4,058: ‘Got to Give It Up’ – Marvin Gaye

Another famous copyright infringement case is far less clear-cut and far more troubling than the ‘My Sweet Lord’ example — the claim that Robin Thicke’s 2013 ‘Blurred Lines’ borrows too heavily from Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up.’

The backstory here is a strange one, and one with a lot of potential to shake up the music industry. That’s because ‘Blurred Lines’ didn’t copy the melody of the Gaye song or sample it directly, but rather mirrored the general mood and feel of the track.

In interviews about his song, Thicke credited Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up’ as an influence. He said that he and ‘Blurred Lines’ co-writer Pharrell Williams aimed to write a song with a similar “groove” as the Gaye track, which reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1977.

Gaye’s family publicly claimed that the song borrowed too heavily from ‘Got to Give It Up,’ a suggestion that irked Thicke and Williams so much they preemptively sued the family and Gaye’s publishing company. They hoped to receive a legal declaration that the song was their own.

Pharrell argued that the songs were musically distinct, while Thicke testified that he was high on Vicodin at the time and had left all of the heavy lifting to Pharrell. Not exactly a star witness.

The “preemptive strike” strategy backfired and the Gaye family filed their own suit in 2015, one which was eventually resolved in their favor when a jury ruled that Pharrell and Thicke should pay damages of more than $7 million. The amount was eventually lowered to $5 million, but the duo lost their appeal late last year and have to pay up.

More than 200 musical artists signed an amicus brief in the appeal suggesting that a ruling like this one could have a chilling effect on songwriters everywhere. Almost every song is influenced by some other work through the long history of popular music, and artists often seek to pay homage to favorite styles and artists.

Oddly, this is probably the second-most prominent controversy about ‘Blurred Lines.’ The song, which was a huge hit, also received widespread criticism for having “rapey” lyrics and a video in which Thicke, Pharrell and rapper T.I. cavorted (while fully clothed) with a host of topless models.

I used to go out to parties
And stand around
Cause I was too nervous
To really get down
But my body yearned to be free
I got up on the floor and thought
Somebody could choose me
No more standin’ there beside the walls
I done got myself together baby
And now I’m havin’ a ball
As long as you’re groovin’
There’s always a chance
Somebody watches
Might wanna make romance

Move your body, ooo baby, you dance all night
To the groove and feel alright
Everybody’s groovin’ on like a fool
But if you see me spread out and let me in
Baby just party high and low
Let me step into your erotic zone

Move it up
Turn it ’round
Shake it down

You can love me when you want to babe
This is such a groovy party baby
We’re here face to face
Everybody’s swingin’
This is such a groovy place
All the young ladies are so fine!
You’re movin your body easy with no doubts
I know what you thinkin’ baby
You wanna turn me out
Think I’m gonna let you do it babe

Keep on dancin’
You got to get it
Got to give it up
Keep on dancin’ (You got to get it)
Got to give it up
Keep on dancin’ (You got to get it)
Got to give it up
Keep on dancin’ (You got to get it)
Got to give it up
Keep on dancin’ (You got to get it)
Got to give it up
Keep on dancin’ (You got to get it, oh darling)
Got to give it up

Ooooh, ooooh, ooooh, ooooh

One thought on “Song of the Day #4,058: ‘Got to Give It Up’ – Marvin Gaye

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Yeah, this one is troublesome, particularly because it may well be the case that, had Gaye been alive, he would have appreciated the homage, and not filed suit seeking money on such shaky legal grounds.

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