Kelis, Al Jarreau, Michael Gregory Jackson & ‘Blurred Lines’: Does Pharrell Have Form?

KelisSo it’s official – Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke ripped off Marvellous Marvin’s ‘Got To Give It Up’ when they wrote ‘Blurred Lines’ in just one hour (though Thicke denies having any input into the writing of the song).

And The Guardian reports that Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ may now be in the Gaye family’s sights too due to its alleged similarity to ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’.

Trumpet player, composer and blogger Nicholas Payton has written eloquently and passionately about the whys and wherefores of the ‘Blurred Lines’ case.

But maybe it shouldn’t be all that surprising – Pharrell seems to have previous. Let’s investigate the track ‘Roller Rink’ from Kelis’s great 1999 album Kaleidoscope which, according to the credits, Pharrell co-wrote with Chad Hugo and Kelis.

Now compare that with ‘No Ordinary Romance’, credited to Michael Gregory, which features on the 1983 album Situation-X and also Al Jarreau’s L Is For Lover from 1986, both produced by Nile Rodgers:

Kelis/Pharrell/Chad haven’t even bothered to change key. They’ve just ‘replayed’ Gregory Jackson’s original. Their version arguably comes up a better top-line melody in the verses, but the chorus just lifts the catchy synth motif from both the Gregory and Jarreau versions.

Michael+Gregory+Jackson+michaelgregory2

Michael Gregory Jackson circa 1983

Michael Gregory Jackson started out as a first-call guitarist in the New York avant-garde jazz scene in the mid-’70s. Later in the decade, he reinvented himself as a singer-songwriter and did a pretty job of it, his 1987 solo album What To Where (sadly not currently available on streaming platforms) getting rave reviews in Q Magazine and a few other influential rags at the time.

My 1999 Kaleidoscope CD credits state that ‘Roller Rink’ was ‘written by K Rogers/P Williams/C Hugo’, with no mention of Gregory Jackson’s name, or sample permissions etc.

So one wonders how much publishing income he has lost out on, though Kaleidoscope wasn’t a huge hit album and ‘Roller Rink’ wasn’t released as a single.

We continue to follow this story with great interest.

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