Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Funky

Funk is awesome. I might like it more than Motown. Love Marvin Gaye.

Only the lurid details of some modern phonies trying to resurrect the Marvin Gaye funk style brought this song to my attention. I don't like much modern music and Robin Thicke comes across as exceptionally phony...he oozes inauthenticity and the song "Blurred Lines" and the video were particularly loathsome. Too loathsome to provide a link. Yes, I dislike the song even though it's a clumsy attempt to steal almost everything from Gaye's vibe, yet I can not agree with the judgement that found Thicke had violated copyrights of Gayes. I hear the similarities, but the funk groove is not Gaye's to steal. See? Every funk song from 1973-1979 had this exact groove. The session musicians were slightly different but in the end they all have the same groove, like Blues has the same groove. Stevie Ray Vaughn didn't invent the blues, but he happened to use the same groove Chuck Berry used 30 years earlier. Well, this Blurred Lines tune liberally uses the groove Gaye and others created in 1974...but so what? The song itself is demonstrably different and the performers are so completely unimpressive and amateurish and loathsomely untalented that it's an insult to Gaye to think these modern assholes created something similar to him. Yes, it's close, but it's close to many songs and Gaye wasn't the creator of Funk so I couldn't award the Gaye family anything although it would please me to see Robin Thicke bankrupt and singing on the sidewalk for a few dollars in spare change, which is all he is worth, but that's my conclusion. However, the law is different than my opinion and a substantial similarity equals a substantial copyright infringement. So that's it. The repulsive Thicke must pay back $4 million worth of his hair products.


So I'm listening to my vintage Fun Boy Three & Bananarama album and I while we're on the topic of copyright infringement go ahead and listen to these two songs back to back...

It Ain't What you Do (1982)

Macarena (1994)

Which are both rip offs of a jazz tune 'Tain't What You Do from back in 1937. The Bananarama tune was admittedly a cover version...

So, do the original 1937 writers deserve royalties from a huge hit Macarena...which was a theft of a song from 12 years earlier? I would submit that, NO, the songs are individual and are both in the swing genre and no one person invented Swing, so a usage of a particular repetitive melody does not mean that Los Del Rio have infringed on either Bananarama nor on Melvin Oliver & James Young. Sorry, there are similarities to many songs of a particular genre, Swing or Blues or Funk or Rock...and that's life. As long as an artist brings his own originality to the song then it's original. I love Marvin Gaye's music but I could find songs he used as inspiration and never credited if I hunted hard enough and if someone wants to do the same thing to him then that's entertainment.

I recently watched the horrible movie Unbroken. Really trite and generic WWII 'Americans are Indomitable' flick. Well, the director Angelina Jolie seems to be liberally borrowing tired directing techniques from Clint Eastwood as well as a running scene that was absolutely identical to one in Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis. I mean, it was identical where the hero is running directly at the camera and triumphantly finds his inner strength in slow motion as the music swells. Identical shots, identical framing, identical theme, identical arc. Even the running looked identical. Is that copyright infringement? Rocky II, directed by Stallone has identical sequences from Rocky I. Stallone wrote the original too, but he blatantly stole camera techniques and whole sequences frame for frame from director John Avildsen.
Listen to Chubby Checkers' Lazy Elsie Molly (1964) and you will hear identical notes to If You Want to Be Happy (1963/1934).

This same topic came up with a song Sam Smith 'infringing' on Tom Petty with the song "Stay With Me"...which had some similarities to "Won't Back Down"...which was produced by Jeff Lynne from Electric Light Orchestra...AND EVERY TOM PETTY and George Harrison SONG SOUNDS LIKE AN ELO SONG! So is Sam Smith stealing from Jeff Lynne, who is stealing from himself, who was stealing from Badfinger, which was produced by The Beatles...who stole from Motown...who stole from Joe Burke and Hoagy Carmichael...who stole from Stephen Foster...who stole from Mozart???

It goes on and on and I feel an artist has an obligation to be original, and failing that to at least find inspiration and material from good artists...and failing that he should not be an artist...but if the attempt at originality is there then we should not split hairs and study songs to the point that we can find similarities to share royalties.

And phony Pharrell offers this lame defense, "The verdict handicaps any creator out there who is making something that might be inspired by something else,"
He's young, but I don't like it when people pretend I'm stupid. Pharrell seems to need some refresher course in "shared copyright". All he has to do is put down "Marvin Gaye" as cowriter...and share royalties. Call Gaye's lawyers before releasing the song and work out a deal. It's no big hassle. A whole Generation of Northern Soul artists managed to avoid lawsuits by simply being original. If your inspiration is heavily borrowed from a specific song then you do have a duty to admit it and share profits. Or if that bothers you, then don't release it. Or release it for free. But don't be an idiot and expect me to believe artists are going to stop being influenced completely. They merely need to be adults and share copyright. This is amusing because that Thicke dude is listed as a cowriter, but he says he had nothing to do with writing it. And Marvin Gaye, who had a lot to do with writing it, isn't listed as a cowriter. Why the fuck is Thicke a cowriter? Because he gets writing royalties, that's why. So what's the big deal about adding Marvin Gaye as cowriter, beside it being a total insult that an irritating song was created out of the murdered soul of his excellent original? 
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