Marvin Gaye's Kids Sue Robin Thicke Over "Blurred Lines" and "Love After War"

Nona and Frankie Gaye allege that Thicke and Pharrell Williams' hit tune rips off two of their late father's songs

By Natalie Finn Oct 31, 2013 4:18 AMTags
Robin Thicke, Marvin GayeJackson Lee/Splash News, Kypros/Getty Images

Marvin Gaye's kids feel that "Blurred Lines" crossed a few legal boundaries.

Two of the late singer's grown children have filed a lawsuit against Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and fellow producer Clifford Harris Jr., alleging that their superlatively popular summer jam wrongfully borrowed from their father's song "Got to Give It Up," and that Thicke's "Love After War" ripped off Gaye's "After the Dance."

Siblings Frankie and Nona Gaye state in their suit that the defendants are guilty of the "blatant copying of a constellation of distinctive and significant compositional elements of Marvin Gaye's classic No. 1 song," according to documents obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

They cite an interview Thicke gave to GQ in which he said, "Pharrell and I were in the studio and I told him that one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye's 'Got to Give It Up.' I was like, 'Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove.' Then he started playing a little something and we literally wrote the song in about a half hour and recorded it."

While Thicke has acknowledged Gaye's influence when it comes to his general musical proclivities, he also filed in August, amid rumblings that the Gaye family was ticked off by his tune, for a preemptive judgment that his songs are his own.

"Being reminiscent of a 'sound' is not copyright infringement," Thicke's complaint stated. "The intent in producing 'Blurred Lines' was to evoke an era."

"There are no similarities between plaintiffs' composition and those the claimants allege they own, other than commonplace musical elements," the suit continued. "Plaintiffs created a hit and did it without copying anyone else's composition."

Not so, claim Nona and Frankie Gaye, who are alleging copyright infringement, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract and recission directed against music publisher EMI. They claim the label failed the family by failing to protect their father's music.

They are also claiming copyright infringement regarding Thicke's "Love After War," stating that it shares "a similar chorus, hook melody and more with Gaye's 'After the Dance.'"

The plaintiffs are asking for damanges and contend that EMI should not only forfeit profits from "Blurred Lines" but also be stripped of the right to administer Gaye's song catalog.

"Plaintiffs anticipated a baseless counterclaim for copyright infringement when they filed their original complaint for declaratory relief, so no surprise there," Howard King, attorney for defendants, said in a statement to THR. "What is surprising in their press-release-disguised-as-a-complaint (much of which will eventually be stricken by the court) is their acknowledgment that the Gaye family has no standing to bring a copyright claim. For this, they blame EMI, the administrator and registered copyright owner of the Marvin Gaye songs.

"Obviously, EMI, which is in the business of collecting substantial sums for actual infringements, regardless of the publishing affiliations of the infringers, consulted their own expert musicologists who gave the same opinion our 3 musicologists gave: The genres of the songs are the same, the notes are different. So whether or not plaintiffs are fans of Marvin Gaye is irrelevant; no infringement occurred here."

Marvin Gaye III, who was named in Thicke's initial complaint but isn't party to his siblings' countersuit, told E! News this summer that he believed credit should be given where it's due.

"The lack of respect for the Marvin Gaye name is something people think they can get away with," he said. "By them suing us, they want us to bow down and give them what they want."

UPDATE: On Jan. 13, 2013, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Gaye's family and EMI owner Sony/ATV had reached an undisclosed settlement. The dispute between the Gayes and defendants Robin Thicke, Pharrell and Clifford Harris Jr. was still pending.