This Thursday, a federal jury in New York concluded that Ed Sheeran didn’t steal key components of Marvin Gaye’s classic 1970s tune “Let’s Get It On” when he created his hit song “Thinking Out Loud,” prompting Sheeran to later joke that he won’t have to follow through on his threat to quit music.
The verdict in New York came after a two-week trial that featured a courtroom performance by
Sheeran as the singer, who insisted that the trial was a “threat to all musicians who create their own music.”
Sheeran sat with his legal team throughout the trial, defending himself against the lawsuit by the heirs of songwriter Ed Townsend, who created the 1973 soul classic with Gaye. They said “Thinking Out Loud” had so many similarities to “Let’s Get It On” that it violated the song’s copyright protection.
Sheeran’s song, which came out in 2014, was a hit, winning a Grammy for Song of the year. His lawyers argued that the songs shared versions of a similar and unpredictable chord progression freely available to all songwriters.
The judge, in his instructions, told jury members, “Independent creation is a complete defense, no matter how similar that song is.” Sheeran thanked the jury for “making the decision that will help protect the creative process of songwriters,” in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Marvin Gaye was a Motown superstar since the 1960s, although his songs released in the 1970s made him a generational musical giant. Tragically, he was killed in 1984 at age 44, shot by his father as he tried to intervene in a fight between his parents. Kathryn Townsend Griffin, his daughter, testified during the trial that she thought Sheeran was “a great artist with a great future.” However, she hoped the lawsuit would not result in a trial, “but I have to protect my father’s legacy.”