MANHATTAN (CN) — Ed Sheeran’s hit love ballad “Thinking Out Loud” is a bit too close to the classic R&B tune “Let’s Get It On,” claims the family of the latter song’s co-writer.
The family’s lawsuit, which was filed in Southern New York Federal Court on Tuesday, alleges that British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran cribbed the harmony for “Thinking Out Loud” from “Let’s Get It On.”
In 1973, Ed Townsend co-wrote “Let’s Get It On” with Marvin Gaye. In Tuesday’s lawsuit, Townsend’s family claims Sheeran and his co-writers stole the “heart” of the R&B song and used a “strikingly similar” melody and rhythmic composition to create a new hit in “Thinking Out Loud,” without crediting Gaye or Townsend.
“The harmonic progressions, melodic rhythmic elements, as observed in ‘Let’s,’ have made ‘Let’s’ one of the most well-known and instantly recognizable songs in R&B history,” the lawsuit states. “These elements of ‘Let’s’ composition are the ‘heart’ or qualitatively, the most important elements of the song as indicated by critical acclaim.”
In addition to Sheeran, the complaint also names as defendants Jake Gosling and Amy Wadge, who are credited with co-writing “Thinking Out Loud,” as well as Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Warner Music Group, BDi Music, Asylum Records, Atlantic Records, and Bucks Music Group.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants were informed of the copyright infringement in April 2015 but have “continued to exploit ‘Thinking’ without permission.”
Townsend’s family seeks compensation for the “undetermined—yet substantial” money “Thinking Out Loud” has generated through album sales and distribution.
Townsend died in 2003. His second wife Cherrigale and two of his daughters are plaintiffs in the suit.
“Thinking Out Loud” has been at the top of the charts in both the United States and United Kingdom since it came out in 2014, and it is regarded as one of the best-selling singles of all time in the U.K. It nabbed the Song of the Year award during this year’s Grammy Awards.
Sheeran has merged the two songs in concerts. At a concert in Germany in 2014, Sheeran segued into “Let’s Get It On” during a performance of “Thinking Out Loud.”
Sheeran was also sued earlier this year by musicians Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard, who claim similarities between their song “Amazing” and Sheeran’s song “Photograph.”
Gaye’s family also has a history of suing artists for stealing composition or harmonies from his songs.
Last year, they won a case against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over alleged copyright infringement for their song “Blurred Linse,” which the Gaye family claims stole from the song “Got to Give It Up.” Gaye’s family was awarded more than $7 million in damages.
The Gaye family also sued Thicke over the song “Love After War,” which they claimed infringed the copyright for Gaye’s song “After the Dance.” But the jury let Thicke and his ex-wife and co-creator Paula Patton off the hook on that count, finding that “Love After War” did not infringe on Gaye’s 1976 single.
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