Armed with his acoustic guitar, Ed Sheeran returned to the podium in his defense on Monday, playing a series of improvised mash-up songs to prove that the inspiration for his hit song “Thinking Out Loud” was Van Morrison, not Marvin Gaye. .
The gig in a jam-packed Manhattan federal courtroom came on the third day of Sheeran’s appearance in the copyright infringement lawsuit, in which he was accused of copying the sheet music of Marvin Gaye’s hit “Let Get It On.” The lawsuit, filed by the heirs of the song’s co-writer Ed Townsend, aims to prove that Sheeran used several elements from the 1973 classic in his 2014 song.
But Sheeran on Monday tried to defy those claims by admitting that the hit he wrote with singer-songwriter Amy Wadge was actually inspired by another legend.
“It became known as the Van Morrison tune,” Sheeran said of how its producers referred to “Thinking Out Loud.” “My voice is similar to his.”
Acknowledging the Northern Irish rock legend’s biggest influence, Sheeran then played a series of four mash-ups for the jury—first a Van Morrison song, followed by the first line of his own song to illustrate the chord similarities. The show marks the second time Sheeran uses his guitar in court to prove that the chords in his song are similar to several famous hit tracks.
On Monday, several judges looked amused as Sheeran improvised the mash-ups between her songs and Van Morrison. Sheeran also garnered laughter in the courtroom when Gaye asked her to sing the opening notes and lyrics to her song instead of explaining the differences from her hit.
At one point on Monday, defense attorney Ilene Farkas asked Sheeran if she copied anything from “Let’s Get It On,” when she and Wadge wrote “Thinking Out Loud” nearly nine years ago.
“No,” Sheeran replied.
Farkas, “Were you thinking ‘Let’s Get Started’?” she asked again, again to which Sheeran replied in the negative.
“It became known as the Van Morrison tune… My voice may sound like his.”
The defense attorney then asked Sheeran his thoughts on the case and what it meant when someone accused him of playing music despite being a successful songwriter.
“I find that really humiliating,” Sheeran said, leaning forward, noting that he’s worked “really” for his career and that it’s hard for anyone to “beat him down”.
Sheeran added that since this lawsuit began last week, many of his music colleagues have stressed that an artist’s melody or chord must prevail in court because of its musical implications.
Townsend’s family insisted the case was made to protect his business. Ben Crump, the prominent civil rights attorney representing the Townsend family, said during the opening debates that Sheeran “understands the magic” of the Marvin Gaye shot and “decided to capture some of that magic for his own benefit”.
Sheeran said on Monday that if he loses his case and therefore sets a precedent that a piece of musicality is not in the public domain, it will greatly affect his songwriting and successful career.
“I’m done,” he said of the possibility.