“I have the utmost respect, the most, utmost respect for Marvin Gaye and his music and he is one of the patriarchs,” Pharrell says in the interview. “He is one of the best. But here’s the thing—you can’t trademark a groove. If I play a song—which a lot of my new hip-hop, rap records are—that’s done in 6/8 time signature, Charlie Parker’s family is not going to sue me for that. Do you understand what I’m saying? If I do a salsa beat right now, I know that Ricky Martin’s family is not going to come looking for me.
“That’s what we’re dealing with,” Pharrell continues. “We’re dealing with the idea that someone feels like a groove is proprietary, and it’s not. Music is, and the notes are, and when you look at the sheet music, then you’d know. And just for a bit of humor, the percussion that I use on ‘Blurred Lines,’ aside from the music notation being completely different, completely different—the sheet music is available online, by the way—but the percussion, I was trying to pretend that I was Marvin Gaye, and what he would do had he went down to Nashville and did a record with pentatonic harmonies, and more of a bluegrass chord structure. So unfortunately there’s no comparison between the minor, bluesy chords he was playing and my major, bluegrass-y chords, and that’s very plain to see for anyone who can read music.”
In 2013, “Blurred Lines” was at the center of legal discussions between Pharrell, Robin Thicke and Marvin Gaye’s family. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of “Blurred Lines” makers in a California federal court in August. “Plaintiffs, who have the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic and their musical legacies, reluctantly file this action in the face of multiple adverse claims from alleged successors in interest to those artists,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants continue to insist that plaintiffs’ massively successful composition, ‘Blurred Lines,’ copies ‘their’ compositions.”
On Monday (March 3), Pharrell spoke with HipHopDX about how he feels when he is referred to as a genius.
“A genius denotes someone who knows a lot on their own—self-contained,” Pharrell said in the HipHopDX exclusive. “And I’m not. All of my work is a direct reaction to meeting all these very interesting people with whom I’ve collaborated. I’ve learned so much about their processes and who they were, and their vibes have inspired me. In that case, I just could not take authorship for my path. I know that I’ve elected to take some of the choices, turns and the direction that I’ve taken. But I know at the same time, there are these integral people in our lives from time to time who come in, give us direction and guide us. They tell us which way to go, and those are the people I feel like are just as much… They share the authorship for all of my successes…So I’m not comfortable in that. I would say I’ve had a lot of really, really, really good help. And I’m just thankful that people have seen something in me, and I was smart enough to allow them to guide me in the right direction. That’s the closest to that term I could ever come to. I’m smart enough to listen to other people, but nowhere near genius.”