Actor Johnny Depp and guitar star Jeff Beck have been accused of stealing lines from a poem for one of the tracks from their latest musical collaboration. The poem is decades old and originated from a prison inmate who was convicted of murder and robbery.
Depp and Beck released the album containing the track last month, shortly after Depp won his famous defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard. The poem was recorded by folklorist Bruce Jackson, who has deeply criticized Depp and Beck for the alleged theft.
He claimed that the two men only contributed two original lines to the song and that the stolen lyrics are more of an ethical issue for him rather than a legal one. Jackson’s son, a music and intellectual property lawyer, revealed they are exploring any possible legal action.
Read on to find out more.
Johnny Depp Recited Lines From The Poem
One of the tracks from Depp and Beck’s album, titled “18,” features Depp reciting several lines. According to Rolling Stone, these lines were originally spoken by Slim Wilson in 1964. Wilson was a prisoner convicted of murder and robbery.
Wilson’s real name was Willie Davis, and asides from murder and robbery, he was also a train-hopping pimp and gambling cheat. He was also popular for his lewd poems called “toasts.”
Rolling Stone also reported that Folklorist Bruce Jackson eventually recorded the poems while Wilson was a prisoner in the Missouri State Penitentiary. One of the toasts was titled “Hobo Ben,” and Jackson included a transcript of it in his book “Get Your Ass in The Water and Swim Like Me.”
Bruce Jackson Said Johnny Depp And Jeff Beck Only Added Two Lines
According to Jackson, many lines from “Hobo Ben” are featured in a song from Depp and Beck’s album. The song, titled “Sad Mother—–n’ Parade,” is a spoken word style song, which only has Depp and Beck as the credited songwriters.
He told Rolling Stone, “The only two lines I could find in the whole piece that [Depp and Beck] contributed are ‘Big time motherf–ker’ and ‘Bust it down to my level.’ Everything else is from Slim’s performance in my book.”
Jackson continued, “I’ve never encountered anything like this. I’ve been publishing stuff for 50 years, and this is the first time anybody has just ripped something off and put his own name on it.”
Bruce Jackson’s Lawyer Son Spoke On The Accusations
Jackson is already considering legal action. His son, Michael Lee Jackson, is a music and intellectual property lawyer, and he also spoke to Rolling Stone about the possibility of legal action against the actor and guitar singer.
He said, “They do not reflect the actual authorship of those lyrics. It’s just not plausible, in my opinion, that Johnny Depp or anybody else could have sat down and crafted those lyrics without almost wholly taking them from some version of my father’s recording and/or book where they appeared.”
However, Rolling Stone further explains that pursuing legal action against Depp and Beck may be difficult, as “Hobo Ben” is an oral tradition and has no definitive author. There is no proof that Wilson wrote the piece and no way to confirm.
It Is An Ethical Issue
Jackson also explained that he sees the stolen lines as more of an ethical problem rather than a legal one. He is a SUNY Distinguished Professor and the James Agee Professor of American Culture at the University at Buffalo.
He said, “I don’t know if this record is selling. I’ve seen some reviews that I’d be very embarrassed to have gotten had they been my album. But if it is selling, Johnny Depp is making a lot of money on it. Should it go to him, or should it go to some place that helps the people who produced this culture?”