The heirs of Ed Townsend, Marvin Gaye’s co-writer of the 1973 soul classic have sued Sheeran, alleging that the English pop star’s hit of 2014 tune has “striking similarities” to “Let’s Get It On” and “overt common elements” that violate their copyright.
The lawsuit filed in 2017 has finally made it to a trial that is expected to last for a week.
32-year-old Sheeran, is among the witnesses expected to testify.
“Let’s Get It On” is the quintessential, sexy slow jam that’s been heard in countless films and commercials and garnered hundreds of millions of streams, spins and radio plays over the past 50 years.
“Thinking Out Loud,” which won a Grammy for song of the year, is a much more marital take on love and sex.
Sheeran’s attorneys have common out to say the songs’ undeniable structural symmetry points only to the foundations of popular music.
“The two songs share versions of a similar and unprotectable chord progression that was freely available to all songwriters,” they said in a court filing.
Townsend family attorneys pointed out in the lawsuit that artists including Boyz II Men also performed seamless mashups of the two songs, and that even Sheeran himself has segued into “Let’s Get It On” during live performances of “Thinking Out Loud.”
Although Gaye’s estate is not involved in the case, but will inevitably have echoes of their successful lawsuit against Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. over the resemblance of their 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” to Gaye’s 1977 “Got to Give it Up.”
A jury awarded Gaye’s heirs $7.4 million at trial that was later trimmed by a judge to $5.3 million, making it among the most significant copyright cases in recent decades.
Sheeran’s music label Atlantic Records and Sony/ATV Music Publishing are also named as defendants in the “Thinking Out Loud” lawsuit.
Writing by Tersoo Nicholas