Thursday, January 28, 2010

'Life's Been Good To Me So Far..'

Great story today about a row between guitarist Joe Walsh (The Eagles, The James Gang) and candidate Joe Walsh (Republican Congresssional aspirant from Illinois) over the latter's use in his campaign of a rewritten version of one of the former's songs.

Parody? Copyright violation? Might end up being left to a judge.

You can watch Candidate Joe's version at The New York Times piece, which has the letter from Guitar Joe's lawyer, which says:

"Under that same United States Copyright Act, you’re not allowed to take someone’s song and change the lyrics. This is not to say you’re not allowed to write silly lyrics, you just have to write them to your own music. Now, I know why you used Joe’s music — it’s undoubtedly because it’s a lot better than any music you or your staff could have written. But that’s the point. Since Joe writes better songs than you do, the Copryright Act rewards him by letting him decide who gets to use the songs he writes."

But the Republican pushes back, saying:

"I thought our song was perfectly fine music and I actually don’t think you’re even close to correct on the law. Copyright laws protect expression, they don’t protect ideas. The lyrics for the song were entirely ours, and that included everything that was said in the video, not just sung. … This video is a parody, protected by the Supreme Court."

Hmmmm. Let's see, shall we.

Greg Mitchell at HuffPo tells the tale with a nice anecdote about an early morning James Gang gig back in the day.

I saw Joe play live just once, in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1982 and on his day he's a great, great rock and roll player. His tunes are completely timeless. The first band I ever played in used to cover Joe's "Turn To Stone" after we all saw him play on the Old Grey Whistle Test one night and were blown away; while thirty years later my band at the FT would rock out with a knockout version of his classic "Rocky Mountain Way". Never, ever gets old.

He's always had such a cool sense of humor. He introduces this clip with: "If I knew I'd end up playing this song for the rest of my life, I'd have written something else." And he's no stranger to politics, of course. He ran for President in 1980 on a platform of "free gas for everyone" and a pledge to make his song "Life's Been Good" the new national anthem.

But it sounds like he's not laughing much about having his work appropriated, and who can blame him. Candidate Joe has already got the publicity he wanted and if he were to 'cease and desist' he'd probably get away with having to apologize and take the video down.

Guitar Joe should at least sue him for the price of a new Maserati.

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