John Lewis donates to charities chosen by musicians after song copy claim

The retail giant said there is ‘no substance’ to the claims and a brand like John Lewis ‘would never copy another cover version’.

Catherine Wylie
Monday 29 November 2021 18:24
John Lewis store (Fiona Hanson/PA)
John Lewis store (Fiona Hanson/PA)

John Lewis has donated to charities chosen by musicians who accused the retail giant of copying their version of a song used in the department store’s Christmas advert.

The Portraits, a husband and wife alt-folk duo, said the version of Together In Electric Dreams in this year’s festive John Lewis advert resembles the arrangement they released last year for charity.

John Lewis previously said, and still maintains, there is “no substance” to the claims, pointing out that it is a famous song which has been covered many times.

The retailer said it supports “numerous” charities and has generated £8 million in the last year alone.

John Lewis said it was glad to donate to The Portraits’ chosen charities, adding that it “would never copy another cover version”.

The store said a report from a leading musicologist was “unable to identify any meaningful evidence of copying from The Portraits’ arrangement”.

The 2021 John Lewis Christmas advert (John Lewis/PA)

Together In Electric Dreams was originally released by Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder in 1984 as an up-tempo track.

Last year The Portraits – Lorraine and Jeremy Millington – created a slowed-down piano version with vocals from their daughter Ciara and an accompanying video to honour those who lost loved ones throughout the pandemic.

The group said money raised from the single went to charities Mind and Cruse Bereavement Support.

The version of Together In Electric Dreams featured on the John Lewis advert is performed by 20-year-old London singer and songwriter Lola Young.

A spokesman for John Lewis said: “We share common interests with The Portraits in the love of the song and our commitment to charities.

“We’re glad to donate to The Portraits’ chosen charities and proud that our Give A Little Love campaign has generated £8m for good causes in the last year, including donations to Mind and Cruse.

A brand like ours would never copy another cover version

John Lewis

“Our version of Electric Dreams is an original cover that was properly authorised by our advertising agency, who secured copyright licences from the original publishers of the track on our behalf.

“We’re well known for stripped-back, slower covers in our Christmas campaigns and this version is consistent with our style. A brand like ours would never copy another cover version.”

Earlier this month Ms Millington, who is originally from Loughrea in County Galway, Ireland told the PA news agency she would like John Lewis to “do the honourable thing” and donate to both Mind and Cruse Bereavement Care “in the spirit of Christmas”.

On Monday she told PA: “We are not sure what the amount of the donation will be, as they asked us to trust them on this and did not want to disclose the sum in question.

“We have been in close contact with Cruse Bereavement Support who are very much in need of the funding at the moment, and of course we are happy that they will benefit from this outcome, especially if the amount is substantial as John Lewis have assured us it will be.

“Meanwhile, we are very excited to be able to re-release a version of Together In Electric Dreams alongside a new cover version of Ed Sheeran’s song Photograph with all proceeds going to the charity Cruse Bereavement Support, and to yet again mark all those lost lives in the last two years and the people supporting them.”

John Lewis said Together In Electric Dreams was not considered as an option for the ad until October, and even then it was one of a number of options on the table.

They pointed out that there are many covers of the original version of the song in the public domain, and that they pay royalties to use it.

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