Ed Sheeran: My Inspiration Was Van Morrison, Not Marvin Gaye

REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo
REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

Armed with his acoustic guitar, Ed Sheeran returned to the stand in his own defense on Monday, where he played a series of impromptu mash-up songs to prove that the inspiration for his hit “Thinking Out Loud” was Van Morrison, not Marvin Gaye.

The concert inside a packed Manhattan federal courtroom came on Sheeran’s third day on the stand at his copyright infringement trial, where he is accused of duplicating the sheet music for Marvin Gaye’s hit “Let Get It On.” The lawsuit, filed by the heirs of the song co-writer Ed Townsend, seeks to prove that Sheeran used several elements from the 1973 classic in his 2014 song.

But Sheeran attempted to shoot down those allegations on Monday—by admitting that the hit he wrote with singer-songwriter Amy Wadge was in fact inspired by another legend.

“It became known as the Van Morrison tune,” Sheeran testified about how his producers referred to “Thinking Out Loud.” “My voice can sound like his.”

Admitting that the Northern Irish rock legend is his major influence, Sheeran then played a series of four mash-ups for the jury—first playing a Van Morrison song followed by the first line from his own song to show the chord similarities. The demonstration marks the second time Sheeran has used his guitar in court to prove that the chords in his song were similar to several famous hits.

Ed Sheeran Is on Trial for Being a Musician

Several jurors on Monday looked amused as Sheeran improvised the mash-ups between his songs and Van Morrison. Sheeran also garnered laughter in the courtroom when he asked to sing his opening notes and lyrics for his song instead of describing the differences from the Gaye hit.

At one point on Monday, defense attorney Ilene Farkas asked Sheeran point blank whether he copied anything from “Let's Get It On” when he and Wadge wrote “Thinking Out Loud” about nine years ago.

“No,” Sheeran replied.

“Were you thinking about ‘Let’s Get it On?’” Farkas questioned again, to which Sheeran replied in the negative again.

The defense attorney then asked Sheeran his thoughts about the lawsuit—and what it means to have someone accuse him of stealing music even though he is a successful songwriter.

“I find it really insulting,” Sheeran said, leaning forward and he noted that he has worked “really hard” for his career and to have anyone “diminish it” is hard to bear.

Sheeran added that since this trial began last week, several of his music colleagues have stressed the need for him to prevail in court because of the musical implications of a melody or chords being owned by one artist.

Townsend’s family has insisted that the lawsuit is meant to protect his work. Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Townsend family, said during opening arguments that Sheeran “recognized the magic” of the Marvin Gaye hit and “decided to capture a bit of that magic for his own benefit.”

Prior to Sheeran’s testimony on Monday, the English singer-songwriter reportedly hugged Kathryn Townsend Griffin, CNN reported. Townsend Griffin, who is named in the lawsuit against Sheeran, hugged him back. She had collapsed in court last week and had to be escorted out of the courtroom.

Sheeran said on Monday that if he were to lose his lawsuit, and therefore set a precedent that a piece of musicality is not public domain, it would greatly impact his songwriting and successful career.

“I’m done,” he said about the possibility.

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