Musician Ed Sheeran played guitar and sang on the stand Thursday as part of his testimony in a copyright infringement trial about whether his smash single “Thinking Out Loud” copied the classic Marvin Gaye song “Let’s Get It On.”
Sheeran played the opening line of “Thinking Out Loud” in an attempt to rebut the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness, Alexander Stewart.
Stewart is a music expert called by the plaintiffs. On Wednesday, Stewart claimed the chords Sheeran played in the first 24 seconds of the song were “virtually identical” to “Let’s Get It On.”
Sheeran denied he played the chords in the way Stewart described, and played the two versions to show the difference.
“It helps his argument, obviously,” Sheeran said. “It works very, very, well for him, but it’s not the truth.”
Sheeran testified that he and co-writer Amy Wadge wrote “Thinking Out Loud” in less than a day in February 2014 when Wadge was staying at his house in the UK.
They were working on music and had written about two other songs when Sheeran went upstairs to shower before dinner, he said. Sheeran described coming out of the shower, hearing Wadge playing chords, and thinking “we need to do something with that.” After returning home from dinner that night, they finished the song and recorded it on an iPhone voice message, he said.
Wadge came up with the basic chord progression in the opening part of the song, Sheeran testified. They likely alternated to come up with chords in another part of the song and both collaborated on the lyrics, he said. Sheeran said he and Wadge both had relatives who were ill or had recently died, and thinking about their long marriages served as inspiration for the song.
Sheeran was previously briefly called to testify Tuesday by attorney Keisha Rice, who represents the heirs of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote the song “Let’s Get it on,” with Marvin Gaye.
During his earlier testimony, the musician said the idea of creating the medley was “probably mine.” He said if he had indeed copied “Let’s Get It On,” then he “would’ve been an idiot to stand on stage in front of 20,000 people.”
Defense attorneys did not cross-examine Sheeran on Tuesday.
Sheeran is accused of copying “Let’s Get It On” by the heirs of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote the 1973 hit with Gaye. Townsend’s daughter Kathryn Townsend Griffin, sister Helen McDonald and the estate of his former wife, Cherrigale Townsend, are the listed plaintiffs on the “Thinking Out Loud” case. Gaye died in 1984 and Townsend died in 2003.
Sheeran’s legal team has argued throughout the week that the sounds used in both songs are common in pop music.
In his opening statement Tuesday, Townsend attorney Ben Crump noted Sheeran played his ballad and Gaye’s song back-to-back in a medley during a concert, and called the moment a “smoking gun.”