I’m raggedy, I know, but I have no stink / God bless the lady that’ll buy me a drink / What that funky motherfucker really needs, child, is a bath, plays the lines in question in Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp’s song, “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade.”
The pair’s song, which appears on their 2022 collaborative album, 18, came under fire earlier this year after a professor and folklorist, Bruce Jackson, alleged the duo plagiarized a poem, titled “Hobo Ben,” from his 1974 book about toasts, Get Your Ass In The Water And Swim Like Me.
Beck and Depp are now taking action against Jackson over his allegations. Rolling Stone reports that the pair have filed a lawsuit against the professor for “unspecified damages, attorneys fees, and a declaration that they have not committed copyright infringement.”
Beck and Depp have argued that the poem has no explicit author. Jackson recorded and transcribed the verses as told to him by an inmate at Missouri State Penitentiary, called Slim Wilson, who claimed to have learned the poem from his father.
Beck and Depp claim this means Jackson “owns no copyrights in the words” and that the “copying of the toast into his book and subsequent recordings did not create any copyrights in those words.”
“They didn’t write a word of ‘Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade’ and they are suing the person they stole it from and who caught them doing it,” read a statement Jackson shared with the outlet. “From my point of view, this is like a burglar suing a homeowner because he cut his hand on the kitchen window he broke getting in.”
While the pair’s lawsuit does acknowledge some similarities between the poem and their song, it argues that “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade” is “an original work of authorship and creativity” and considers Jackson’s allegations as “part of an old-fashioned shakedown.”
Jackson’s representation, Rachel and Michael Jackson, who are also Jackson’s children, have called the lawsuit “a bald attempt to distract the public’s attention away from their repeated attempts to claim authorship for a song that they did not write.”
The Jacksons also noted, “When this story first broke, Depp and Beck issued a statement to Rolling Stone that ‘if appropriate, additional credits will be added to all forms of the album.’ Why have they walked away from this promise?”
Photo by Venla Shalin/Redferns