Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck accused of stealing incarcerated man’s poem for album | Music

Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck have been accused of stealing the lyrics to a poem by an incarcerated man on their collaborative album, 18, reports Rolling Stone.

The song Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade appears to borrow several lines from Hobo Ben, a poem and song by Slim Wilson, the pseudonym of a self-proclaimed cheater and pimp who served time for murder and armed robbery.

In 1964, while at Missouri State Penitentiary, Wilson met folklorist Bruce Jackson, who documented his poetry and toasts—a comedic form of black folk poetry, similar to the hobo ballad—for his 1974 book on the latter art form, Get Your Ass in. the Water and Swim Like Me, accompanied two years later by an album of the same name in which Slim performs his works.

In the Hobo Ben toast, the titular wanderer asks the hosts of a party:

Ladies of such refined culture and beauty, is there any among you who would bestow wine on me?

I’m ragged I know, but I don’t stink

And God bless the lady who offers me a drink.

Hattie with heavy hips turned to Nadine laughing

And he said, ‘What this funky motherfucker really needs, kid, is a bath.’

Several lines from the song appear in Depp and Beck’s Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade, including the title, “I’m raggedy, I know, but I have no stink”, “God bless the lady that’ll buy me a drink”, and “What this funky motherfucker really needs, kid, is a bath”.

“The only two lines I could find in the whole room that [Depp and Beck] contributed are ‘Big time motherfucker’ and ‘Bust it down to my level’,” Jackson, a University at Buffalo professor, told Rolling Stone.

“Everything else comes from Slim’s performance in my book. I’ve never come across anything like it. I’ve been posting stuff for 50 years, and this is the first time anyone’s ever ripped something off and put their own name.

The album’s liner notes credit Beck and Depp as the sole songwriters. The Guardian has contacted representatives of the duo for comment.

However, the original authorship of Hobo Ben, a work handed down through competitive oral tradition, may be impossible to trace, as well as copyright ownership.

Jackson’s son, Michael Lee Jackson, said they were exploring possible legal options. “They don’t reflect the true authorship of these lyrics,” he said. “It’s just not plausible, in my view, that Johnny Depp or anyone else could have sat down and created these lyrics without taking them almost entirely from a version of the recording and /or my father’s book where they appeared.”

As the author of Get Your Ass in the Water, Jackson owns the copyright to the toast transcripts, making him the equivalent of authorship in US law, attorney Kevin J Greene told Rolling Stone, adding that it may be more of an ethical issue. not covered by US copyright law – only legal.

About album 18, the author told Rolling Stone: “I don’t know if this record sells. I saw reviews that I would have been very embarrassed to have had if it was my album. But if it sells, Johnny Depp makes a lot of money from it. Should he go to him, or should he go to a place that helps the people who produced this culture? »

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