Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck are suing teacher and folklorist Bruce Jackson over his allegations that the duo’s song Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade on their collaborative album 18 plagiarize a poem written by an incarcerated man.
In August, Jackson accused Depp and Beck of taking lines from the poem he documented in his 1974 book Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me. Various lines appear in both works: “I’m in shreds, I know, but I ain’t got no stink / God bless the lady who’ll buy me a drink” and “What that awesome motherfucker really needs, child, is a bath.”
The poem has no definitive author but was told to Jackson by a Missouri State Penitentiary inmate named Slim Wilson. Neither Wilson nor Jackson were named co-writers of the track.
Following Jackson’s allegations, a spokesperson for the duo said they would review the claims and add additional copyright credits “if appropriate.”
But Rolling Stone Reports that the couple have now filed a lawsuit against Jackson for unspecified damages, legal fees and a statement that they have not committed copyright infringement. Their lawsuit claims that Jackson “does not own any copyright in the words” of the poem, only for his own recordings or transcriptions, which the couple claim not to have infringed.
Jackson told Rolling Stone, “They haven’t written a word of Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade and they’re suing the person they stole it from who caught them doing it. From my point of view, it’s like a burglar chasing a landlord because he cut his hand on the kitchen window he broke on entering.
The lawsuit claims that Jackson sent letters to Depp and Beck in August alleging “nearly every word” of the song was “copied from Hobo Ben, including the title.” He also allegedly suggested that the “inflection, key and rhythm” mirrored the recording he made of Slim Wilson giving the toast in the 1960s, and that Depp and Beck had sampled his recording to “build parts of the vocal track”.
The suit says Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade is an “original work of authorship and creativity”, but admits that “there may be certain elements” of the song that “mirror the lyrics” of Hobo Ben.
Lawyers for Jackson, Rachel and Michael Jackson – also his children – have called the lawsuit a “brazen attempt to distract the public from their repeated attempts to claim authorship of a song they did not write”. .
They accused Depp and Beck of hypocrisy for claiming it was not possible to copyright a toast while claiming authorship of Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade on album 18.
Their statement continued: “It is important to understand that Depp and Beck have not denied that the lyrics and vocal nuances performed on Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade appear to have been duplicated by Depp and Beck, that they appropriated When this story first broke, Depp and Beck released a statement to Rolling Stone saying that “where appropriate, additional credits will be added to all forms of the album.” they reneged on that promise?
Depp and Beck’s lawsuit described Jackson’s allegations as an “old-fashioned shakedown.” Jackson’s statement called their request a ‘publicity stunt’ and clarified that he had not made ‘formal financial requests’ to the pair, but said ‘any monies will be donated directly to organizations that reinforce his lifelong commitment to preserving African American culture and traditions. ”.
Depp and Beck’s album 18 received a mostly negative response from critics. In a two-star review, Michael Hann of The Guardian described it as “a particular and extremely uneven record”. In another two-star review, Mark Beaumont of the Independent said, “It’s hard enough to find a coherent purpose for it, beyond just a Hollywood slap in the face.”