Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck are suing the artist that accused them of stealing lyrics for “Sad Motherf—in’ Parade,” a song featured on their album 18 that’s billed as a “Johnny Depp original.”
As previously reported, the track’s lyrics are a near word-for-word rip-off from a poem titled “Hobo Ben.” The poem is featured in the 1974 book Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me by Bruce Jackson. Jackson’s book is a collection of “toasts.” (An album featuring recordings of these toasts was released in 1976.) “Hobo Ben,” in particular, was the original work of a man referred to as Slim Wilson. Jackson met Wilson while in the Missouri State Penitentiary in 1964.
According to Rolling Stone in relation to the lawsuit, “Depp and Beck’s argument appears to hinge on the gray area between the unknown origins and authorship of ‘Hobo Ben,’ and the copyrights that Jackson does own for his transcriptions and recording of the toast. Depp and Beck claim this means Jackson ‘owns no copyrights in the words’ to ‘Hobo Ben,’ and that the ‘copying of the toast into his book and subsequent recordings did not create any copyrights in those words.'”
In response to the lawsuit against him, Jackson said in a statement to Rolling Stone, “They didn’t write a word of ‘Sad Motherf—in’ Parade’ and they are suing the person they stole it from and who caught them doing it. From my point of view, this is like a burglar suing a homeowner because he cut his hand on the kitchen window he broke getting in.”
Additionally, Jackson’s legal representation — which happen to be his children, Rachel and Michael — shared in a statement, “The hypocrisy runs deep with these two. On the one hand, they claim that Professor Jackson cannot have a copyright interest in the song ‘Sad Motherf—in’ Parade’ because it is a ‘toast’ or poem with uncertain authorship that was freely passed and shared within the African-American community — which Depp and Beck fully know is false. On the other hand, they repeatedly claimed authorship of this same song — first on the digital release of 18, and, later, on the vinyl release of ’18.’ How do they explain this? They don’t. Instead, they filed a lawsuit against the person who exposed their apparent misappropriation of this African American work in the song ‘Sad Motherf—in’ Parade.'”