Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck have filed a lawsuit against folklorist and teacher Bruce Jackson, who accused the couple of stealing the lyrics of a toast he documented in his 1974 book and 1976 album, Put your ass in the water and swim like me.
As rolling stone First reported in August, Depp and Beck’s song, “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade” (from their album 18) seems to draw many lines from a poem called “Hobo Ben”, including one that ostensibly gives the song its title. For example, part of the original poem “Hobo Ben” reads: “I’m ragged, I know, but I don’t have a stink/And God bless the lady who will offer me a drink”./Hattie with heavy hips turned to Nadine laughing / and said, “What this awesome motherfucker really needs, child, is a bath.”
The lines “I’m ragged, I know, but I don’t have a stink”, “God bless the lady who will buy me a drink”, and “What this funky motherfucker really needs, child, is bath” all appear on “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade”.
For his part, Jackson does not claim authorship of the poem. He learned it from an inmate at Missouri State Penitentiary, identified as Slim Wilson, who said he learned it from his father. The poem, like so much music and art in the oral tradition, has no definitive author.
After rolling stone released their report, a spokesperson for Depp and Beck said the duo were considering additional copyright credits “if appropriate.” But a few months later, it appears the couple are less interested in giving credit than in suing Jackson for unspecified damages, attorneys’ fees and a statement that they did not violate the law. ‘author.
Depp and Beck’s argument seems to hinge on the gray area between the unknown origins and authorship of “Hobo Ben” and the copyright Jackson owns for his transcriptions and the recording of the toast. Depp and Beck claim this means that Jackson “does not own any copyright in the words” of “Hobo Ben” and that “the copy of the toast in his book and subsequent recordings did not create any copyright in these words”.
In a statement shared with rolling stoneJackson replied, “They didn’t write a word of ‘Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade’ and they’re suing the person they stole it from who caught them doing it. From my point of view, it’s like a burglar chasing a landlord because he cut his hand on the kitchen window he broke on entering.
Lawyers Rachel and Michael Jackson (who are Jackson’s children) also dismissed the lawsuit as “a brazen attempt to divert public attention from their repeated attempts to claim authorship of a song they did not ‘have not written’.
Their statement continues: “The hypocrisy runs deep with these two. On the one hand, they claim that Professor Jackson cannot copyright the song ‘Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade’ because he s This is a “toast” or poem of uncertain authorship that has been freely transmitted and shared within the African-American community – which Depp and Beck know full well is not true. hand, they repeatedly claimed authorship of this same song – first on the digital release of 18and, later, on the vinyl release of 18.
“How do they explain that? They don’t. Instead, they filed a lawsuit against the person who exposed their apparent misappropriation of this African-American work in the song “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade.”
According to Depp and Beck’s lawsuit, Jackson fired the pair of letters in August alleging “almost every word” in “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade” is “copied from ‘Hobo Ben,’ including the title.” There were also suggestions that the “inflection, key and rhythm” in “Sad Mothefuckin’ Parade” mirrored Jackson’s recording of Slim Wilson giving the toast in the 1960s. Jackson’s letter even allegedly alleged that Depp and Beck not only copied the lyrics from “Hobo Ben”, but may have sampled this recording “to build parts of the vocal track” on “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade”.
Depp and Beck’s lawsuit goes on to claim that while “there may be elements” of “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade” that “mirror the words” of “Hobo Ben”, “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade” is described as “a original work of authorship and creativity Representatives of Depp and Beck did not return rolling stoneThe request for clarification of whether this statement meant that the couple claimed to have written the lyrics to “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade,” and that any of the song’s various similarities to “Hobo Ben” were just coincidental.
Meanwhile, in their statement, the Jacksons noted, “It is important to understand that Depp and Beck have not denied that the lyrics and vocal nuances performed on ‘Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade’ appear to have been duplicated by Depp and Beck, which they appropriated and credited to themselves.When this story first broke, Deep and Beck released a statement for rolling stone that “where appropriate, additional credits will be added to all forms of the album”. Why did they break that promise?
Additionally, Depp and Beck’s lawsuit described Jackson’s allegations as “part of an old-fashioned shakedown.” But according to Jackson’s statement, he never made “formal financial demands of Depp and Beck.” Instead, “He has repeatedly clarified that any settlement money will be donated directly to organizations that reinforce his lifelong commitment to preserving African American culture and traditions. Depp and Beck’s claim that this is a ‘cashgrab’ is a publicity stunt and worse, another lie.”
Jackson put it a little more bluntly in his initial interview with rolling stone, saying, “I don’t know if this record sells. I saw reviews that I would have been very embarrassed to have had if it was my album. But if it sells, Johnny Depp makes a lot of money from it. Should he go to him, or should he go to a place that helps the people who produced this culture? »