Legendary Memphis And Motown Musician Puts “Blurred Lines” Debate Into Focus
(Memphis) Singer Robin Thicke arguably has one of the hottest Pop and R&B hits of 2013. Singer Marvin Gaye had one of the of the hottest hits of 1977.
But does Thicke’s song called “Blurred Lines” cross the line by sounding too similar to Gaye’s classic hit called “Got To Give It Up?”
Memphian and legendary Motown Records Funk Brother Jack Ashford aka “The Tambourine Man” recorded and toured with Marvin Gaye for several years and performed on Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” record.
He spoke exclusively to News Channel 3 at Ardent Studios in Memphis.
“I was right there with Marvin Gaye on that song. We were the only two musicians on that record. Of Course, when we did that there was no vocal tracks on it. It was just instruments. He(Gaye) was playing the keyboard and the keyboard bass and drums.” Ashford said.
Ashford, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement winner who recorded at both Motown and at Stax Records in Memphis, remembers when he and Gaye were in the studio.
“When we did the song, Marvin, we had no direction. It was a jam and he said Jack give me something. Which instrument do you want?”
Ashford played his tambourine and used a Coca-Cola bottle and a fork to help give Gaye’s song its unique percussive sound.
“So, I picked up a Coca-Cola bottle, the old fashion Coke bottle and a fork and started beating out the rhythm on the Coke bottle and he(Gaye) said that’s it. That’s what I want.”
Ashford said the real Marvin Gaye sound is hard to duplicate.
“But the thing is, in my estimation, to copy you’d have to get similar sounds and similar styles and nobody plays drums like Marvin Gaye. So therefore, I didn’t hear that on Robin’s song. You’re not going to write what he(Gaye) writes and most definitely you won’t sing what he(Gaye) sings. There’s no threat there. There’s no threat.”
But complaints regarding “Blurred Lines” have Thicke and his producers preemptively suing Marvin Gaye’s family .
“I didn’t hear that on his(Thicke) record. It’s just a party record and I don’t think you can copyright a groove. You know.”
So, what does Ashford think about Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and does it rip off Gaye’s record?
“If you look at his(Gaye) catalog and everything he’s written, he’s Marvin. He didn’t care what you do. No, I don’t see it as a rip off. I wouldn’t call it a rip off.”
The lawsuit claims that’s Gaye’s family alleges the song ‘feels’ or ‘sounds’ the same.
“Stevie Wonder said it very clearly just recently on the internet and he knows Marvin’s family and he said don’t waste your time on this. The only people who’s going to make money is an attorney.”
Ashford, who’s recorded on more than 91 number one hit records, said one thing is clear and not blurred is all of this controversy means two hit records keep getting bigger .
“He(Thicke) could have very easily, if he wanted to, sampled the bass line of Marvin’s song and put his stuff around it and pay the royalties, if he wanted to do that. But one benefit out of all of that, both records are selling and I think it a marketing genius who came up with that.”
Ashford, who’s heard on Elton John’s new album called “The Diving Board” said musicians influence other musicians and their music all the time.
“I’ve written over 100 songs and if you check out each song thoroughly you’d hear the influence of a 100 other songs that I didn’t write. That’s just the nature of the beast.”