Grumpy Classic Rocker Doesn’t Like Younger Artists Covering His Songs
Grumpy classic rocker Don Henley is still mad at Frank Ocean. A couple years ago, the Eagles‘ drummer and singer accused the R&B stylist of stealing his songs. And apparently it’s still a sore spot with him.
In a new interview with the Daily Telegraph, Henley is still upset that Ocean sampled the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ on his song ‘American Wedding,’ which was included on a free mixtape.
“Mr. Ocean doesn’t seem to understand U.S. copyright law,” Henley said. “Anyone who knows anything should know you cannot take a master track of a recording and write another song over the top of it. You just can’t do that. You can call it a tribute or whatever you want to call it, but it’s against the law.”
At the time, Ocean wrote about the incident, in which Henley threatened to sue the R&B upstart if he played the song again. “Why sue the new guy?” Ocean asked. “I didn’t make a dime off that song. I released it for free. If anything I’m paying homage.”
Henley doesn’t see it that way. And he doesn’t think indie band Okkervil River were paying tribute to him either with their mostly faithful cover of his 1989 solo hit ‘The End of the Innocence,’ which they included on their — also free — mixtape ‘Golden Opportunities 3.’ The fact that Okkervil changed a few words didn’t sit well with the man who wrote ‘Get Over It.’
“You can’t rewrite the lyrics to somebody else’s songs and record it, and put it on the Internet,” Henley told the Daily Telegraph. “I’m sorry, but it wasn’t an improvement. We were not impressed. So we simply had our legal team tell them to take it down, and they got all huffy about it.”
Okkervil River frontman Will Sheff, who admitted at the time that he’s a huge fan of ‘The End of the Innocence,’ went on Twitter this morning and responded to Henley’s comment that “I don’t know how they’d react if I took one of their songs and rewrote the lyrics and recorded it. I don’t know if they’d like that.”
Apparently they wouldn’t mind one bit:
I would be honored if Don Henley took one of my songs and re-wrote the lyrics and recorded it. That's how folk music works. Love you Don.
— Okkervil River (@okkervilriver) June 4, 2014
Sheff also went on about how he thinks copyright laws are “garbage that damages the culture,” “artists should be able to pass ideas back and forth” and, quoting the song he apparently stole, “So much great painting/writing/folk/rap/blues creatively plagiarizes from others. Artists get this. Lawyers dwell on small details & don’t.”
Henley said he doesn’t really have a problem with people covering his songs — he just doesn’t like when they mess around with them. “If you respect somebody, you ask their permission to diddle around with their work,” he said. “You don’t just go and do it.”
Still, anyone who saw the great Eagles documentary last year knows that these guys can be brutal, ruthless and just plain dicks when it comes to their music. Just ask any of their former bandmates. Plus, Henley’s come off like a cranky old man for a quarter century now. Do we really expect anything else from him at this point? Don? “That’s a problem with some of the younger generation,” he said. “They don’t understand the concept of intellectual property and copyright.”