Musician Ed Sheeran leaves after the first day of his copyright-infringement trial at Manhattan Federal Court on April 25, 2023 in New York City (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images).
Ed Sheeran is denying that he copied Marvin Gaye’s 1973 classic “Let’s Get It On” for his Grammy-winning hit “Thinking Out Loud.” On Tuesday (April 25), the 32-year-old English singer-songwriter took the stand in a Manhattan courtroom where a 30-second clip of “Let’s Get It On” was played by a ruling from the U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton. Despite Sheeran’s attorneys saying that the clip was “irrelevant and prejudicial” to the case, a piece of evidence included Sheeran performing a mash-up of both songs during a 2014 concert.
Representing the heirs of “Let’s Get It On” co-writer Ed Townsend, were Ben Crump and Keisha Rice who called the concert video “a smoking gun” and “a confession” in the courtroom. With the lawsuit first filed in 2017, Townsand’s heirs are claiming that “Thinking Out Loud” contains “overt common elements” to “Let’s Get It On.”
“I mash up songs at lots of gigs. Many songs have similar chords. You can go from ‘Let It Be’ to ‘No Woman No Cry’ and switch back,” Sheeran shot back during his testimony, per Reuters. “And quite frankly, if I’d done what you’re accusing me of doing, I’d be quite an idiot to stand on a stage in front of 20,000 people and do that.”
Although Sheeran’s comment drew laughs from the courtroom, the vocalist continued by saying that he’d never heard the Gaye song until watching 1999’s Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Sheeran also claimed that his associates said “Thinking Out Loud” reminded them of Van Morrison, who would later tell the artist that he “liked” the song, instead of threatening to sue.
In opening statements, Sheeran’s attorney Ilene Farkas said that the singer and “Thinking Out Loud” co-writer Amy Wadge wrote a song that used “exceedingly common musical building blocks… Plaintiffs do not own them, because nobody does. All songwriters draw from this same basic toolkit,” she argued, per Billboard.
Kathryn Townsend Griffin, plaintiff, and Townsend’s daughter, testified that attempts at a settlement with Sheeran’s team had been unsuccessful. “I want you to know that it did not have to come to this. But I had to protect my father’s legacy,” Griffin said.
Sheeran is expected to testify again as the trial proceeds.