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Marvin Gaye's Ex-Wife Explains Why She Hesitated to Sue over "Blurred Lines"

Image Courtesy of MotownA federal court jury ruled back in March that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams' 2013 hit "Blurred Lines" infringed on the copyright of Marvin Gaye's 1977 song "Got to Give It Up."  Janis Gaye, the late Motown legend's ex-wife, explains to ABC Radio why her family decided to sue in the first place.

"We didn't [initially] decide to sue.  We were sued by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke and we defended ourselves.  We really didn't have a choice," she clarifies.  "We had to defend Marvin's legacy because it was so blatant.   There had to be something done.  So in a way it was a strange kind of blessing that they sued us first and we were able to defend ourselves and have things turn out the way that they have, which we are ecstatic about."

Although U.S. District Court Judge John Kronstadt recently cut the size of the damages a jury awarded the Gaye family, Williams, Thicke and Universal still have to pay out a total of $5.3 million in damages.  The Gaye family also was granted 50 percent of all future royalties from the song.

Initially, Janis says she hesitated to go through with her counter lawsuit.

"I had moments of me thinking, 'Well people are not gonna wanna use Marvin's music.  They're going to be alienated by the family,'" she reveals.  "But then when I thought about it, like seriously thought about it, if Marvin were alive today, he would not stand for anyone doing what they did to his song.  So we're here, as his family, and the kids as his heirs, they're here and I'm here to protect what Marvin left."

Janis married Marvin in 1977, divorcing him in 1981.  The couple, who were reportedly in an "open marriage," had two children, Nona and Frankie.

After the ruling, Pharrell spoke out.  He told The Financial Times that the ruling would have a lasting impact on the creativity of artists, specifically that "the verdict handicaps any creator out there who is making something that might be inspired by something else." 

In response to Pharrell's statement, Janis says, "I think that's a ridiculous notion.  I don't mean to be crass but I just think it's nonsense.  Artists are stepping up before they get into some kind of legal quagmire over a copyright infringement and they're paying the original artists.  So I think it may have shaken people up but it's in a good way.   It's for the positive."

Janis adds that she felt bullied by the Grammy-winning producer during the legal proceedings.  "He did that faux 'I'm-going-to-sing-the-praises-of-my-greatest-hero-but-I'm-going-to-take-my-hand-and-put-it-in-the-pockets-of-his-children-because-he's-no-longer-living,' she maintains.  "And 'I'm Pharrell Williams and I'm on The Voice and I can do this.'  There was a lot of entitlement there."

The lawyer for the Gaye family, Richard Busch, explained in detail why he thought the jury decided the way it did.

"Robin Thicke went on TV and radio before the lawsuit was filed and said he told Pharrell Williams to create a song like 'Got to Give It Up.'  Pharrell Williams, even though he testified in his deposition that neither Marvin Gaye nor 'Got to Give It Up' crossed his mind while creating 'Blurred Lines,' stated in interviews outside of the case that he tried to take the feeling that 'Got to Give It Up' gave him when creating 'Blurred Lines,'" he told ABC Radio.  "He said he pictured himself as Marvin Gaye."

With the lawsuit behind her and her family, Jan, as she's known, admits that she actually liked "Blurred Lines" when it was released.

"Initially, I really, really liked the song but it gave me the feeling that I got back in 1977 when Marvin did 'Got to Give It Up,'" she says.  "So it was sort of like the same feel and it's the first song that my daughter Nona learned to do dance to.  It's the first song that she remembers her father doing.  So it's a special song to us out of his catalog.  It stands on its own."

She adds about the 2013 hit, "I'm a little tired of it at this point."

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