Ed Sheeran has appeared in a New York court to defend his songwriting against allegations that he plagiarized Marvin Gaye’s song “Let’s Get It On” for his own hit song “Thinking Out Loud.” The lawsuit was originally filed in 2017 by the heirs of Gaye’s co-writer on “Let’s Get It On,” Ed Townsend. It alleges that Sheeran and co-writer Amy Wadge copied an ascending four-chord sequence and its rhythm. Sheeran testified that “Thinking Out Loud” was composed by himself and Wadge in a collaborative writing session inspired by the love held between his grandparents. He argued that “most pop songs can fit over most pop songs” and that the chord sequence is not unique. Sheeran’s lawyer argued that the plaintiffs “cannot own these common musical elements. No one owns basic musical building blocks.”
The lawsuit is one of three different lawsuits brought by different parts of Townsend’s estate, with two more currently on hold. Sheeran has been accused of plagiarism numerous times before. In 2017, he settled out of court after the songwriters of the Matt Cardle song “Amazing” claimed it had been copied by Sheeran for his song “Photograph.” Sheeran later regretted the settlement, as it opened “the floodgates” to further plagiarism claims. In 2022, he won a UK court battle over his biggest hit, “Shape of You,” after he was accused of copying a song by little-known songwriters Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue.
At the New York hearing, Sheeran said that after recording “Thinking Out Loud,” he thought “it sounded like it emulated Van Morrison, production-wise,” and cited other songs by Morrison with similar chord sequences. A musicologist retained by the plaintiffs has described the chords in each song as “virtually interchangeable,” while acknowledging they are slightly different. A musicologist for Sheeran has said the chord sequence is not unique and gave numerous other examples of its use in songs by artists such as Donovan and the Seekers. The New York hearings are expected to last a week.
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