Robbie Williams, the wunderkind of British pop, is being accused of stealing the lyrics for a song on his latest album from an American singer-songwriter who came to fame in the Sixties.
The star is being sued for damages over the song "Jesus in a Camper Van" on his platinum-selling album, I've Been Expecting You. According to the High Court writ, the song lifted lyrics from Loudon Wainwright III's "I Am the Way", written 25 years ago.
Williams sings in his song: "Even the Son of God gets it hard sometimes especially when he goes around saying I am the way." These lines are used repeatedly. Wainwright sang: "Every son of God gets a little hard luck sometime especially when he goes around saying he's the way."
The two songs are both a wry look at evangelists. Wainwright, 53, has a cult following for theintelligence of his music and lists the DJs John Peel and Andy Kershaw among his fans. Williams, formerly of the Take That boy band, is currently Britain's most successful pop artist.
The writ against Williams has been issued at the High Court in the Strand. It alleges that EMI was aware of the potential dispute over the lyrics. Court documents say EMI asked Ludlow Music Inc for permission to use the lyrics nearly two years ago. Ludlow wanted half of the copyright fees of Williams's song. This was turned down and the New York company asked for references to Wainwright's song to be deleted. Now Ludlow is suing Williams, his co-writer Guy Chambers, and their record and publishing companies.
The British solicitors' firm that acts for Ludlow, Sheridans, confirmed that the writ is being pursued. Williams's side said Wainwright was acknowledged in the credits on the album. They have also have pointed out that Wainwright's own lyrics were an adaptation of Woodie Guthrie's 1961 song "New York Way".
* Robbie Williams's hit "Angels" is the pop song most people would like played at their funeral, a survey by the Co-operative Funeral Service says. Ranked two and three are "My Way" by Frank Sinatra and "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler. Last year's top funeral song, Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On", dropped to number four.