Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck have been accused of stealing an incarcerated man’s poem for the lyrics of their tune Unhappy Motherf—kin’ Parade, the fourth observe on their collaborative album, 18.
Rolling Stone first reported that the tune seems to have most of the similar phrases because the poem Hobo Ben by Slim Wilson, the pseudonym of a self-proclaimed “cheat” and “pimp” who frolicked in jail for homicide and armed theft in Nineteen Sixties.
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A spokesperson for Depp and Beck instructed Rolling Stone they’re assessing the validity of the claims concerning Unhappy Motherf—kin’ Parade.
“We’re reviewing the inquiry regarding the tune Unhappy Motherf—kin’ Parade on the 18 album by Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp. If acceptable, further copyright credit will probably be added to all types of the album,” the assertion mentioned.
Wilson, whose actual id isn’t recognized, met folklorist Bruce Jackson on the Missouri State Penitentiary in 1964. Wilson reportedly shared plenty of poems and toasts — a type of traditionally Black poetry that tells heroic tales in an usually comedic means — with Jackson.
In Jackson’s 1974 ebook about toasts, referred to as Get Your Ass within the Water and Swim Like Me, he included many works attributed to Wilson. In 1976, Jackson recorded an album based mostly on the ebook, on which Wilson performs a number of of the toasts.
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The toast Hobo Ben describes the titular character at a celebration the place he says, “Girls of tradition and wonder so refined, is there one amongst you that may grant me wine?/I’m raggedy I do know, however I’ve no stink/and God bless the girl that’ll purchase me a drink.’/Heavy-hipted Hattie turned to Nadine with amusing/and mentioned, ‘What that funky motherf—ker actually need, little one, is a shower.’”
The tune Unhappy Motherf—kin’ Parade options most of the similar traces. On the observe, Depp says “I’m raggedy, I do know, however I’ve no stink,” “God bless the girl that’ll purchase me a drink,” and “what that funky motherf—ker actually wants, little one, is a shower.”
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Depp and Beck are the one songwriters credited on the observe.
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“The one two traces I might discover in the entire piece that [Depp and Beck] contributed are ‘huge time motherf—ker’ and ‘bust it right down to my stage,’” Jackson, who’s now a professor on the College of Buffalo, instructed Rolling Stone.
“All the pieces else is from Slim’s efficiency in my ebook,” he continued. “I’ve by no means encountered something like this. I’ve been publishing stuff for 50 years, and that is the primary time anyone has simply ripped one thing off and put his personal identify on it.”
Jackson’s son, Michael Lee Jackson (who’s a lawyer), mentioned they’re presumably pursuing authorized motion, although no such submitting has been made.
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“It’s simply not believable, for my part, that Johnny Depp or anyone else might have sat down and crafted these lyrics with out nearly wholly taking them from some model of my father’s recording and/or ebook the place they appeared,” Michael instructed Rolling Stone.
Although Jackson owns the copyright to the recording of Hobo Ben, since Wilson instructed Jackson he discovered the toast from his father (as most toasts are handed down orally), proving authorship could also be troublesome. (Jackson has by no means claimed to be the writer of Hobo Ben and has traditionally shared income with writers and performers like Wilson.)
For that reason, the accusations about Unhappy Motherf—kin’ Parade could show to be extra of an moral dilemma than a authorized one.
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Jackson hopes Depp and Beck will change the songwriting credit score to incorporate Wilson.
“I don’t know if this document is promoting. I’ve seen some evaluations that I’d be very embarrassed to have gotten had they been my album,” he instructed Rolling Stone. “However whether it is promoting, Johnny Depp is making some huge cash on it. Ought to it go to him, or ought to it go to some place that helps the individuals who produced this tradition?”
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