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Le Tigre settle lawsuit over doo-wop lyrics

By | Published on Tuesday 2 November 2021

Le Tigre

Le Tigre’s Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman have settled their short-run legal battle with musician Barry Mann, according to court papers seen by Pitchfork. So that’s no fun. We prefer our legal battles to be long-running and very tetchy.

This dispute related to the 1999 Le Tigre song ‘Deceptacon’, which had some similar lyrics to Mann’s 1961 single ‘Who Put The Bomp (Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)’. Hanna and Fateman said that, somewhat late in the day, Mann was now claiming that their song infringed the copyright in his earlier work.

The lyrical similarities between the two songs are clear to see. Mann’s song goes “Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp? Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?”, while ‘Deceptacon’ has the lyrics “Who took the bomp from the Bompalompalomp? Who took the ram from the Ramalamadingdong?”

However, Hanna and Fateman argued, Mann had actually borrowed those key lyrics from earlier tracks for ‘Who Put The Bomp (Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)’, which was basically a novelty record lightly mocking the nonsense lyrics that are common in doo-wop songs.

In a lawsuit seeking court confirmation that their track did not infringe any copyrights owned by Mann, Hanna and Fateman stated: “It appears that Mr Mann took ‘bomp-bah-bomp-bah-bomp’ from The Marcels’ distinctive version of ‘Blue Moon’, which sold over a million copies, and ‘rama lama ding dong’ from the Edsels’ then-popular ‘Rama Lama Ding Dong’. In short, the ‘Bomp’ lyrics at issue are not original to Mr Mann, and defendants have no legitimate copyright claim in them”.

On top of that, Hanna and Fateman added that their use of lyrics similar to Mann’s track was ‘fair use’ under US copyright law. As, probably, was Mann’s lifting of words from earlier doo-wop songs, ‘Who Put The Bomp (Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)’ arguably being a parody of the genre, and parody constituting fair use.

They were decent and interesting arguments on Hanna and Fateman’s part, but we’ll not get to see them tested in court. According to Pitchfork, new legal papers confirm that the dispute has been “amicably resolved by a confidential settlement agreement without any public admission of liability”. As a result, the lawsuit has been dismissed with prejudice, meaning it can’t be re-filed in the future. No fun.