The stage was a witness box barely 3 feet wide, but Robin Thicke sang, played the piano and even danced a little in his seat during his testimony Wednesday for his copyright trial against Marvin Gaye’s children.
Thicke took the stand in a federal trial that will decide whether his 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” infringed on Gaye’s 1977 song “Gotta Give It Up." Thicke, singer Pharrell Williams and rapper T.I. preemptively sued the Gaye family for a determination that their song was not an infringement, and the Gayes countersued.
In his testimony, Thicke was primarily backtracking on radio and magazine interviews in which he previously claimed that he proposed to Williams that they write something like “Gotta Give It Up.”
Thicke told the federal jury that he was drunk and high on drugs during those interviews, and that he was trying to take credit for some part of the song that had become the biggest hit of his career even though Williams wrote it on his own.
“It felt like a little white lie that wouldn’t hurt his career and boost mine,” Thicke testified.
He said the stories he told in the interviews about writing the song amounted to “revisionist history.”
When he heard Williams give his account of the night “Blurred Lines” was written in deposition testimony during the lawsuit -- that it had been written by the time Thicke arrived at the studio -- “a light bulb went off” and he realized he was mistaken, Thicke told jurors.
Thicke said statements he filed in court papers about having written some of the verses were incorrect, and that he’d lied to Oprah when he told her half of his music was inspired by Gaye.
Richard Busch, an attorney representing Gaye’s children, asked Thicke if he changed his story after he learned of the copyright claim.
"Absolutely not,” the performer replied.
Under questioning by his own attorney, Thicke played several songs on a keyboard perched on the witness stand to demonstrate that many pop tunes share the same chord progression -- U2’s “With or Without You," Michael Jackson’s “Man In the Mirror,” the Beatles’ “Let It Be.”
Thicke followed Janis Gaye, Gaye’s ex-wife and mother of one of the plaintiffs, on the witness stand. She testified that as soon as she heard “Blurred Lines” she noticed similarities, and was initially thrilled that the hit would breathe new life into Gaye’s classic.
She said she was surprised to learn the songwriters hadn’t licensed Gaye’s work.
“It’s the living legacy Marvin left behind for his children, his family, his fans and the world,” she said.
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