John Legend says he’s concerned that the Blurred Lines verdict could set a scary precedent for artists creating music inspired by others.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, the Grammy winner said he understands why people say 2013’s biggest hit song by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke sounds like Got to Give It Up, Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit, adding: “I said that when I first heard it, too.”
But he said he doesn’t agree with the jury that determined the performers copied elements of Gaye’s work.
“You have to be careful when it comes to copyrights, whether just sounding like or feeling like something is enough to say you violated their copyrights,” the singer-songwriter told The AP while at the South by Southwest music festival last week in Austin. “Because there’s a lot of music out there, and there’s a lot of things that feel like other things that are influenced by other things. And you don’t want to get into that thing where all of us are suing each other all the time because this and that song feels like another song.”
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Here are some highlights from the interview:
“All of Me” was such a huge hit. Is there any pressure as you head into the next album?
The pressure I put on myself isn’t, ‘I have to make another All of Me.’ It’s just I have to write great songs. I want to make a better record than I made the last time. I want to grow. I want to discover new things about myself creatively.
You and Common won an Oscar for “Glory” from “Selma.” Where did you put the statue?
It’s sitting on my piano in New York at our apartment there.
What was it like working with Sam Smith on the charity single “Lay Me Down”?
It was great. I love Sam. I think he’s one of the most talented new artists out right now, and our voices work really well together. And we both love soul music and wanted to make a really powerful song together, and we were able to do that — and do it for a great cause. And I’m excited for all the traction the song has gotten; it hit No. 1, my first No. 1 in the U.K.
Have you been to SXSW before?
I’ve performed here many times, just different types of events. There’s always something going on. The first time I played here was actually for Starbucks, outside of Starbucks in 2005 for my first album. I’ve come back for different purposes different years. I’ve done a show with Kanye here.
What was it like mentoring budding musicians?
Love it. It’s something I’ve always done anyway. A lot of it has been informal; some of it is me signing artists like Estelle or executive producing artists like Stacy Barthe. It’s always been a part of what I like to do, and I benefited from it as well. Kanye signed me and has mentored me, Stevie Wonder has mentored me. All kinds of people have given me great advice over the years, so I like to pay it forward as well.