Johnny Depp’s Latest Controversy Involves Potentially Plagiarized Lyrics
At issue is a song on "18," Depp's new album with Jeff Beck
The last couple of years have seen Johnny Depp in the news more for various controversies — including multiple libel trials and a troubling Dior campaign — than anything else. His latest project, an album recorded with Jeff Beck titled 18, was recently released to, shall we say, less-than-enthusiastic reviews. (Quoth Michael Hann at The Guardian, “…it would be a peculiar and hugely uneven record even if Depp had never been near a courtroom in his life.”) But even this collaboration hasn’t been without controversy.
As Rolling Stone reports, questions have arisen as to whether Depp and Beck should have credited an incarcerated musician for lyrics on one of the album’s songs. The article points to a toast by Slim Wilson called “Hobo Ben,” which was documented in Bruce Jackson’s 1974 book (and subsequent recording) Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me: African-American Narrative Poetry from the Oral Tradition.
Numerous lines from “Hobo Ben” can be heard in Depp and Beck’s song “Sad Motherf*ckin’ Parade.” Jackson, who teaches at the University of Buffalo, expressed his frustration with the lack of credit for Wilson in the album’s liner notes. “I’ve never encountered anything like this,” Jackson said. “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.”
What seems especially egregious in the case of this album is the fact that many of the songs on 18 are covers, and are (correctly) billed as such.
It does sound as though someone involved with 18 is looking into the matter, thankfully. Both Rolling Stone and The Guardian cite comments made by a spokesperson to the effect that the lyrics are being researched. “If appropriate, additional copyright credits will be added to all forms of the album,” this spokesperson told The Guardian.
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