Contrary to what some people may think, a lot of thought went into the decision to sue Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke for copyright infringement, Marvin Gaye’s ex-wife Janis Gaye told ABC News Radio. It was not made lightly.
For one, Janis Gaye explained, she didn’t want to alienate Marvin Gaye’s estate from the music industry or give the impression that artists would have a difficult time sampling and clearing Gaye’s music.
“I had moments of me thinking, ’Well, people are not gonna wanna use Marvin’s music,’” Janis Gaye said. “They’re going to be alienated by the family. But then when I thought about it, like seriously thought about it, if Marvin were alive today, he would not stand for anyone doing what they did to his song. So we’re here, as his family, and the kids as his heirs, they’re here and I’m here to protect what Marvin left.”
Williams and Thicke were ordered to pay the Gaye estate $5.3 million because a jury found that their song “Blurred Lines” was heavily inspired by Marvin Gaye’s hit “Got to Give It Up,” and decided that Williams and Thicke had to pay up for that copyright infringement.
But chief among the reasons for their decision to sue, Janis Gaye explained, is that Williams and Thicke sued them first. "We didn’t [initially] decide to sue. We were sued by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke and we defended ourselves. We really didn’t have a choice," she said.
“We had to defend Marvin’s legacy because it was so blatant. There had to be something done,” she continued. “So in a way it was a strange kind of blessing that they sued us first and we were able to defend ourselves and have things turn out the way that they have, which we are ecstatic about.”
But perhaps the most interesting nugget to come out of Janis Gaye’s interview was her account of how she was particularly annoyed by some of Williams’ antics during the trial. She described how she didn’t think he was particularly sincere all the time and came off as pompous.
“He did that faux ‘I’m going to sing the praises of my greatest hero but I’m going to take my hand and put it in the pockets of his children because he’s no longer living,’” she said. “And ‘I’m Pharrell Williams and I’m on The Voice and I can do this.’ There was a lot of entitlement there.”
Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features expert advice with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.