Paying homage

A law suit is going on right now with the Gaye family claiming that Robin Thicke’s recent songs are acts of “brazen copying.” I had read another report in which Thick and his producers counter-sued using the argument that being “reminiscent of a sound is not copyright infringement.”

I am not particular interested in the copyright issues of this law suit. Rather, I’m interested in what is an artist’s responsibility for transparency with regards to paying homage to the songs that served as their inspirations. I was a bit disappointed that the Thicke-camp didn’t just come clean about their work. If they had publicized up-front that they were explicitly trying to bring Marvin Gaye back to the forefront of popular music, that would have perked my interest.

We debated the notion of sampling a while back. It was controversial. Now, isn’t it kind of an honor to have your song sampled by another? I suppose there’s the issue of royalties, but zero percent of zero is zero, so this has not become a relevant point for me.

There are several songs of mine that have very well-defined influences. I have no need to hide that. Even when I don’t tell people explicitly what the songs that serve as the inspiration are, I like it when people figure it out. In fact, I had once thought of the idea of making a record called, “Pairings.” The design would look like a tasting menu in which the songs I had written were paired with the songs that inspired them. One easy example is the song, “Going Back Alone” being paired with Gladys Knight & the Pips performance of “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Maybe I’ll still do that. I don’t think it’s a horrible idea.

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