Trial Over Hit Song ‘Blurred Lines’ Drawing To A Close
Williams’ testimony about how he wrote the song could be crucial to a federal jury that will soon decide whether “Blurred Lines” improperly copied from Gaye’s 1977 hit, “Got to Give It Up.”
Testimony in the case will conclude on Thursday after jurors hear from rapper T.I., who was added to the song after Williams and singer Robin Thicke recorded it in one night in mid-2012.
Williams wrote the music and almost all the lyrics, even though Thicke and T.I. share songwriting credits, testified that he can see how people draw similarities between “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s music, but that wasn’t his intention during the creative process.
“He’s one of the ones we look up to,” Williams, 41, said Wednesday. “This is the last place I want to be.”
Williams said the last thing he would ever do is “take something of someone else’s when you love him.”
The inspiration for elements of “Blurred Lines,” which was the biggest hit of 2013, came from phrases Williams said he heard growing up and the upbeat sound of the disco era in the 1970s.
Williams spent more than an hour describing to a packed courtroom his musical process and he how he crafted “Blurred Lines” in between working on tracks with Miley Cyrus and rapper Earl Sweatshirt. Thicke arrived after the music and lyrics had been written, Williams recalled. He quickly brought the singer up to speed and they began recording.
“We were bopping and dancing,” Williams recalled. “It was a cool night.”
His answers were sometimes too lengthy for U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt, who cut off Williams several times mid-sentence and didn’t allow him to elaborate on some of his answers.
“Blurred Lines” has earned more than $16 million in profits and more than $5 million apiece for Thicke and Williams, according to testimony offered earlier in the trial.
Williams said after the song was released, he saw similarities between “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s work but said that wasn’t a conscious part of his creative process.
Richard S. Busch, who represents the Gaye family, asked Williams whether he felt “Blurred Lines” captured the feel of the era in which Gaye recorded.
“Feel,” Williams responded. “Not infringed.”
The case opened last week and featured testimony from Thicke, who told jurors that he took a songwriting credit on “Blurred Lines” despite Pharrell doing most of the work.
Thicke brought a bit of showmanship to a trial that has focused on minute details of chords and sheet music. He performed elements of “Blurred Lines” and hits by U2 and The Beatles to show how different songs can include similar-sounding musical elements.
Williams did not perform any music during his more than hour of testimony, and complained that audio comparisons of “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give It Up” had been created in a way that made them sound similar.
Despite the lack of vocals on the tracks, Thicke bobbed his head while his hit was played.
The trial has included detailed analysis of snippets of chords and notes from both songs, all created in the same key. Jurors have heard “Blurred Lines” and lawyers for Gaye’s family wanted the panel to hear “Got to Give It Up,” but Kronstadt has limited how the song can be presented in court. Rulings state Gaye’s song can only be played as it appears in a sheet music submitted to get the song copyright protection.
Williams’ career as an artist-producer has been booming in recent years, with the singer performing his hit “Happy” at the 2014 Oscars just weeks after winning three Grammy Awards for his work with Daft Punk.
He also serves as a judge on the NBC competition show “The Voice.”