We all like Ed Sheeran. He’s a nice guy, lots of fun, and a seemingly serious musician.
So why why why does he have such a bad problem with plagiarism?
His latest involves a song called “The Rest of Our Life,” which he gave to country superstar husband and wife Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. The song sounds so much like Jasmine Rae’s 2014 hit “When I Found You” that its Australian writers, Sean Carey and Beau Golden, have filed suit against Sheeran, et al. And yes, the songs are very much alike.
So what is going on here, Ed? It was only earlier this year that Sheeran had to add the songwriters of TLC’s “No Scrubs” to the credits of his massive hit “Shape of You.” Indeed, the shape of Sheeran’s song came from “No Scrubs” and there was no debating it.
And that wasn’t the first time Sheeran stepped in it. Another massive hit, “Thinking of You,” has caused a lawsuit from Marvin Gaye’s family. They hear the classic “Let’s Get it On,” when Sheeran’s song is playing, and frankly, I always did. Sheeran took some of the song and most of its feel for his hit. The Gayes had already won a big lawsuit against Robin Thicke over “Blurred Lines,” so they’re not strangers to this situation.
This kind of thing happens occasionally. Sam Smith had to add Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty to his “Stand By Me” because it was lifted right out of their “I Won’t Back Down.” In 1971, George Harrison conceded that “My Sweet Lord” was influenced by “He’s So Fine,” which led to a decade of litigation. There have been plenty of other examples. In the 80s, Michael McDonald thought he’d written a pop hit with “I Keep Forgetting” until someone pointed out that he’d just re-written the Chuck Jackson hit from the 1960s. Famed pop authors Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller wound up sharing credit.
There are lots more of these. Sometimes the music publisher doesn’t want to deal with it. I don’t think Curtis Mayfield’s estate has ever gotten satisfaction from John Mayer, whose “Waiting for the World to Change” is completely lifted from Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” and “We’re a Winner.” (A lot of Mayer is based on Mayfield.)
And this is different from sampling, which is Alicia Keys’s hobby to be sure. This is more like what Mariah Carey did in her heyday with Tommy Mottola– just taking the music and waiting for the lawsuit. (Mariah settled plenty of them in her day.)
What’s frustrating is that Sheeran seems capable of not doing this. All he has to do is ask someone over 30, “Does this sound familiar?” And it when it does, you scrap it. Otherwise, it’s back to the courts.