Business News Legal Top Stories

Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams depositions made public in Blurred Lines squabble

By | Published on Tuesday 16 September 2014

Blurred Lines

First you tapped your feet and you hummed the tune. Then you danced a little. Then you all downloaded and streamed it making Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and Universal Music very rich indeed. Then you listened to the lyrics and, hopefully, threw up a little. But who knew that pop music’s rape apology anthem ‘Blurred Lines’ would lead to such all round entertainment?

So yes, the depositions made by Thicke and Williams in the ongoing ‘Blurred Lines’ plagiarism dispute have been made public, and entertaining reading they both make. Thicke, it turns out, is a drug addled, alcoholic liar who saw an opportunity to piggy back on William’s undeniable pop-making prowess. While Williams, though mainly a genius pop-maker, can also be a bit of a dick. Good times.

‘Blurred Lines’ has gone legal, of course, not because of its dubious lyrical content, but because of the allegations Thicke and Williams borrowed heavily from the Marvin Gaye track ‘Got To Give It Up’ when creating their tune.

This partly stemmed from an interview Thicke gave to GQ in which he admitted: “Pharrell and I were in the studio and I told him that one of my favourite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’. I was like, ‘Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove’. Then he started playing a little something and we literally wrote the song in about a half hour and recorded it”.

An innocent remark perhaps, but it led to claims Thicke and Williams had simply ripped Gaye off, to the extent that ‘Blurred Lines’ infringed ‘Got To Give It Up’. The duo, still on a high from the successes they’d achieved with their hit, filed legal papers designed to shut up the Gaye-rip-off claimers. Gaye’s family responded with a countersuit alleging infringement.

All of which led to the rape-pop duo sitting down under oath to answer questions from the Gaye family’s lawyers back in April, the transcripts of which have now been made public via The Hollywood Reporter. And this time Thicke, who perhaps deserves more sympathy for his personal issues than my earlier words expressed (though this is the man who sang ‘Blurred Lines’), told a very different story about the creation of his big hit. Basically, it was nothing whatsoever to do with him. Yep, his involvement didn’t even extend as far as suggesting Pharrell rip off a Marvin Gaye tune.

Says Thicke: “To be honest … I was high on vicodin and alcohol when I showed up at the studio. So my recollection is, when we made the song … I wanted to be more involved than I actually was. [And] by the time, nine months later, [when] it became a huge hit, I wanted credit. So I started kind of convincing myself that I was a little more part of it than I was … I wanted some credit for this big hit. But the reality is, Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song”.

Thicke then concedes that he was “lucky” to be in the room with Williams when he wrote the track (though less so if the infringement claim prevails, I guess), and that he was given 18-22% of the publishing royalties with his co-writer credit. The singer then discusses his drink and drug problems, admits that it’s what caused the widely publicised collapse of his marriage, and says that he was under the influence during most of his media interviews around the time of ‘Blurred Lines’ so can’t really remember what he said (and therefore, presumably, any Gaye-rip-off remarks aren’t to be trusted). He thenadds that he has now kicked the prescription drug habit, but still has issues with alcohol.

So far, so sad. For his part, Williams backs up Thicke’s recall of the ‘Blurred Lines’ sessions. “When I work with a person” he said, “I think about the energy that they’re coming with, but this wasn’t the case because [Thicke] wasn’t there yet. Usually, I think about the energy and what they come in with. People walk in with vibes. They walk in with feelings. This was not one of those days”.

Williams adds that he gave Thicke some of the credit for ‘Blurred Lines’ because, well, firstly that’s the way the pop industry works, and secondly on record it is his collaborator’s involvement that makes the track stand out. “Because it’s the white man singing soulfully”, he observed. “And we, unfortunately, in this country … we don’t get to hear that as often, so we get excited by it when the mainstream gives that a shot”. Which may or may not be true. Though it certainly is true that Thicke’s sex-pest look played its part in the success of the ‘Blurred Lines’ phenomenon.

So far, so sensible. But Pharrell, has Marvin Gaye been an influence on you? “He’s an Aries. I respect him”. And whose are those horrendous ‘Blurred Lines’ lyrics? “[They’re] mine”.

Of course, all this tells you little about the credibility of the Gaye family’s infringement claims, which is why legal reps for Thicke and Williams understandably tried to keep the depositions confidential. They would “distract attention from the real issues”, said the attorneys, and “embarrass, harass, and annoy” their clients, they added. Yep, exactly that.

Though Thicke’s admission under oath that “he doesn’t give a fuck” about this litigation might be most harmful should the case properly get to court. For more deposition fun times do check out The Hollywood Reporter article.