- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
The two are accused of plagiarism, as Rolling Stone reported that lyrics from their song "Sad Motherf***in’ Parade" are directly lifted from a poem written by an incarcerated man named Slim Wilson.
The text that they are accused of copying is a "toast" called "Hobo Ben." According to The Guardian, a "toast" is a form of "Black folk poetry, akin to hobo balladry."
Depp and Beck's song copies multiple lines from the poem, like one that includes the song's title, "[Y]ou better try to keep you ass in this corner of shade/’cause if the Man come you make a sad motherf***in’ parade."
One section of "Hobo Ben" is as follows: "I’m raggedy I know, but I have no stink/And God bless the lady that’ll buy me a drink./Heavy-hipted Hattie turned to Nadine with a laugh/And said, ‘What that funky motherf***er really need, child, is a bath.’"
In comparison, "Sad Motherf***in’ Parade" has lyrics that are almost word-for-word the same, like the lines, "I'm raggedy, I know, but I have no stink," "God bless a lady that'll buy me a drink," and "What that funky motherf***er really needs, child, is a bath."
"Hobo Ben" and other poems and songs by Wilson were recorded by a folklorist scholar named Bruce Jackson, who met Wilson in the Missouri State Penitentiary in the 1960s.
The recordings were collected and published in Jackson's 1974 book, Get Your A** in the Water and Swim Like Me. Two years later, Wilson performed his works as songs on an album of the same name.
Jackson spoke with Rolling Stone about the plagiarism, saying, "The only two lines I could find in the whole piece that [Depp and Beck] contributed are ‘Big time motherf***er’ and ‘Bust it down to my level.'”
He continued, "Everything else is from Slim’s performance in my book. I’ve never encountered anything like this. I’ve been publishing stuff for 50 years, and this is the first time anybody has just ripped something off and put his own name on it."
Jackson has a son named Michael Lee Jackson who works as a lawyer on cases that involve intellectual property such as this.
He told Rolling Stone, "It’s just not plausible, in my opinion, that Johnny Depp or anybody else could have sat down and crafted those lyrics without almost wholly taking them from some version of my father’s recording and/or book where they appeared."
Depp and Beck's album, 18, only credits the two as the songwriters on the track "Sad Motherf***in’ Parade."
Jackson and his son are reportedly considering legal options, hoping to find a way to credit the correct authors of the song.
Because "Hobo Ben" and other poems by Wilson were generally performed orally and probably aren't recorded anywhere except for Jackson's book, he is likely the author of the poem according to U.S. copyright law.
Regarding what he hopes to happen in this situation, Jackson was clear in his response: "If [the album] is selling, Johnny Depp is making a lot of money on it. Should it go to him, or should it go to some place that helps the people who produced this culture?”
Neither Depp nor Beck have publicly responded to the accusations.