Many decades ago when personal computers were just hitting the market, I got a gig with Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Houston’s largest law firm at the time, merging the computer culture with their corporate culture and teaching their secretaries, paralegals, assistants, and attorneys how to use computers and the prevalent software at the time, which was Lotus-1-2-3, PC Write, WordStar, and WordPerfect.
Ever since those days I have had an inordinate interest in the law, often making it an avocation wherever I have been.
Perhaps the aspect of law that I most enjoy is copyright law, so it’s only natural that when my love of music butts heads with the law, I find it interesting. I mean, after all there are only so many notes, chords, and riffs that can be strung together to make music and songs. Over time, then, there’s bound to be a little borrowing here and there, even if only subconsciously.
Here are two music lawsuits involving the very rich and famous, and that the richer and more famous person lost:
The great Johnny Cash was sued by Gordon Jenkins who claimed that Cash used lyrics and melody from Jenkins’ 1953 composition “Crescent City Blues” in his 1955 hit “Folsom Prison Blues.” Even the opening lines are similar. Cash paid up, to the tune of $75,000.
There’s no question that in the realm of music, Chuck Berry was rich and famous. However, he sued someone even richer and more famous, John Lennon, and won.
Berry’s publishing company sued Lennon, claiming that lines and melodies for “Come Together” were taken from Berry’s 1956 song, “You Can’t Catch Me.” As part of the settlement, Lennon agreed to record three songs owned by publisher Morris Levy, including a cover of “You Can’t Catch Me” for Lennon’s 1975 covers album Rock ‘N’ Roll.
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