In 2013, Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams released their pop hit “Blurred Lines,” which was meant to evoke the sounds of a long-vanished era in music. Unfortunately, they ended up evoking it a little too well. More specifically, they found themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit from the estate of Marvin Gaye, which claimed the pair’s song ripped off major elements of Gaye’s 1977 smash hit “Got to Give It Up.”
Thicke and Williams responded aggressively, countersuing Gaye’s estate. They claimed that the two songs were strikingly, obviously completely different, as anyone could tell. Gaye’s family said they could hear the similarities the moment that “Blurred Lines” started. So did a bunch of fans and a lot of reviewers. One guy even went to the trouble of overlaying the two songs for a YouTube video showing how similar they were. In fact, the professional musicologist hired by Gaye’s family documented eight specific similarities.
Thicke’s previous comments did not help his case. He was on record as saying that he’d stolen from Marvin Gaye before, that “Got to Give It Up” was one of his favorite songs, and that he had told Williams he wanted to write something like it with him. The jury sided with Gaye’s estate. It awarded the estate $7.3 million, which was almost half of what the song had generated in sales at that point.