Ed Sheeran brought his guitar to a British courtroom this week to make a legal statement, mashing up several popular songs with his hit “Thinking Out Loud,” which stands accused of ripping off the Marvin Gaye classic “Let’s Get It On.”
Testifying for a second day in London, Sheeran on Tuesday played and sang songs by Nina Simone, Bill Withers, Van Morrison and more, shifting easily between them, “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let’s Get It On” to demonstrate how similar chord progressions are commonly shared across decades of hits. Courtroom sketches showed Sheeran seated in the witness box with his guitar strapped across his chest.
The estate of late musician Ed Townsend, who co-wrote the 1973 hit “Let’s Get It On” with Gaye, claimed that Sheeran’s song copied key elements, including the melody, harmony and rhythm. The same group of heirs successfully sued Pharell and Robin Thicke over their hit “Blurred Lines,” eventually collecting more than $5 million for their unanimous jury verdict in 2015.
Sheeran’s defense team also presented testimony from expert musicologists, who analyzed the two songs and found that they were not substantially similar. Sheeran’s irritation with the lawsuit has been palpable, and it emerged again from the witness stand, where he snarled at the idea that someone would “diminish” his song by claiming it was stolen.
“I find it really insulting,” he said, according to CBS News.