The music business is infamously — or maybe just famously — litigious. Lawsuits are filed with striking regularity by artists who claim, with often teeth-skin-thin justification, that they had penned a phrasing or spun a melody that was later stolen by one monumentally successful artist or the other.
A recent case, filed two weeks ago in Colorado by Richard Morrill, is illustrative. Morrill, a hair stylist and musician who wrote the song "Who's Got My Lightah" in 1996 (lyrics cited in the initial complaint: "Who's got my lightah? Going to find ya. Who's got my lightah? I'm right behind ya. Who's got my lightah? I'm going to find ya. Give it back, give it back."), has accused Gwen Stefani of copping his pronunciation of the word "fire" as "fi-ya" in a song she made with Pharrell, "Spark the Fire." Morrill alleges she got the idea for that delivery after he'd styled her hair 20 years earlier and gifted her a CD of the track. (More often than not, these kinds of cases are settled for pennies on the dollar in order to make them go away.)
Portlandia's Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein have skewered this commonality, featuring a guest appearance from Jeff Tweedy. "Turns out he owns the key of G, which has made life very difficult for me as a songwriter," Tweedy laments.
"If you came up with a melody, or a beat, or a lyric... you can sue anyone," Armisen's Mark Lukey insists.
He's not wrong.