Slim Wilson lived the hell of life. A vagabond in the classic sense, he stopped trains and traveled the country, picking up all manner of marks with bullets and knives along the way. For the money, he did odd jobs and threw the dice, but Slim proudly declared that he was not a gambler – he was a cheater. He was also a pimp, committed time for murder, and was in the Missouri State penitentiary for armed robbery when he met folklorist Bruce Jackson in 1964. Above all, Slim was, in Jackson’s ears, “one of the best storytellers ever”. He must have ever heard of poetry and toast.
During their time together, Slim shared the stories of his life and many toasts with Jackson—a wildly quirky, witty, ribald form of narrative Black folk poetry. A decade later, Slim featured much about Toast in Jackson’s 1974 book, get your ass in the water and swim like me, And you can hear him showcasing his craft on the 1976 album of the same name. In his heavy Arkansas draw, Slim is at once unfazed and delighted as he peels off one unchallenged line after another, leaving that lackluster flair to bite of excitement as he approaches a bawdy punch line. .
In a toast, “Hobo Ben” (which you can listen to below), Titanic trumps, walks into a party and asks the hosts, “‘Women of culture and beauty are so sophisticated, are there any of you who would like me? Will give wine? / I know, but I don’t stink / And God bless the woman who’ll buy me a drink.’ / The heavy-hipped Hattie turned to Nadine with a laugh/ and said, ‘That What the cowardly bastard really needs, baby, is a bath.'” (It’s as tame as toast.)
Nearly 60 Years After Jackson Recorded Slim, “Hobo Ben” Has Got Some New Fans Johnny Depp And Jeff Becky, although you may not know it as things stand. Her song, “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade,” from her new album, 18“Hobo Ben”, including one that gives the song its title: “[Y]Better try to put your ass in this corner of the shadows / ‘Cause if the man comes you parade a sad bastard. A few lines quoted above – “I’m raggedy, I know, but I don’t stink,” “God bless the lady who’ll buy me a drink,” and “What does that funky motherfucker really need, baby, Ek Hai Bath” – “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade”. Feather 18“Sad Motherfuckin Parade” is Credits to Beck and Deppow, Slim Wilson, Bruce Jackson, or . no mention of get your ass in the water and swim like me,
“The only two lines I found in the whole piece that [Depp and Beck] Contributed to ‘Big Time Motherfucker’ and ‘Bust It Down to My Level,'” claims Jackson. “Everything else in my book is from Slim’s performance. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve been publishing content for 50 years, and this is the first time someone has broken something up and put their name on it.
(Slim, it should be noted, is a pseudonym. Jackson gave the nickname to everyone he spoke to to make sure he didn’t get into trouble with his warden. Jackson – now at the University of Buffalo A distinguished professor – says Slim’s real name was either Willie or Willie Davis, using available information, Rolling stone Davis, who was in his 50s when Jackson met him in 1964, but was unsuccessful.)
Depp and Beck’s album rep did not return immediately. Rolling stoneComment request.
Jackson’s son, Michael Lee Jackson, is a lawyer whose practice includes music and intellectual property (Michael also moonlights as a musician and once played with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan). He says he and his father are exploring possible legal options, but insist that a lawsuit has not been filed, nor have any letters been sent indicating that one has been sent. But what Michael is certain about is that the current credits on “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade” are wrong.
“They don’t reflect the actual authorship of those songs,” he says. “It is not plausible, in my opinion, that Johnny Depp or anyone else could sit down and compose those songs almost entirely without taking them from my father’s recordings and/or some version of the book where they appear. “
Kevin J. Green, a lawyer and law professor known for his extensive and critical work on black music and copyright law, agrees that Depp and Beck “independently” performed the song as “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade”. not made for. “The words are so similar, it seems that he actually based his song [‘Hobo Ben’],” he says.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve been publishing material for 50 years, and this is the first time anyone has broken something and put their name on it” – Bruce Jackson
But while a side-by-side comparison of “Hobo Ben” and “Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade” might make things look clearer, making a real legal case is a questionable proposition. The biggest question is authorship: “Hobo Ben,” like so many music and art in the oral tradition, doesn’t have a definite author. Slim tells Jackson that he learned the toast from his father, and Jackson now says, “The lines in it are similar to other types of lines—not the specificity of the words, but the types of things that are changed. [in other toasts], It’s simply part of the genre, like a bluesman doing a certain kind of crack. ,
The exact origins of toasts are unclear, and Jackson notes that they actually began to appear in print by the late fifties. Because they were so ugly that they were rarely published, let alone records; Folklorists began to study them after changes in pornography and obscenity laws in the early sixties. Nevertheless, toasts spread and flourished, performed everywhere from parties to atonement. And although they began to disappear, in Jackson’s view, with the proliferation of portable audio devices, his legacy is quite clear: “Amiri Baraka once told me that he thought the rap tradition derived from the toast tradition,” Jackson says. Huh. “Friends are reading poems all around … and not reciting them by rote, but acting out voices.” (Producer Madlib noted this lineage when he sampled another toast get your ass in the water“Pimpin Sam,” at the end of his 2014 track with Freddie Gibbs, “Shitsville.”)
Slim pointed out that the way toast is shared and taught is ineffective get your ass in the water: “Songs and dialogue. You tell one and then I’ll try to up it and so on downstairs… It wasn’t just on one occasion that I heard these things. I’d hear it from him, maybe I’ll get out of him.” I would have got some, and later I would go to some other party and take some more from it.”
Although a different art form And copyright law for toasts and other works in the craft, oral tradition, is “very problematic,” Green says. And this goes double for older work like “Hobo Ben” which falls under the Copyright Act of 1909 (the current law was passed in 1976 and came into force in 1978). Under the 1909 Act, an artist would be required to do certain things in order to secure copyright, many of which were clearly not happening to those working in the oral tradition.
For example, Green says, there is “determination theory”, which is still around today and states that a work has to be written or recorded in some way. “It basically left the door open for others to fix the work and claim copyright,” Green says, “and it happened a lot for black artists.” On top of this, the work must be original, and “if it has come down from a long tradition, it may fail that test of being created independently.”
“It’s a perfect storm, basically, for these people who make it this particular way, and quite hostile to that form of lawmaking,” Greene says.
The person who can really stand out is Jackson. Jackson certainly doesn’t claim to be the author of “Hobo Ben” or any of the toasts he’s recorded. get your ass in the water, but he has his copyright transcription Among the toasts that are recorded in his book and album. And in the eyes of the law, Greene notes, that more or less makes him a writer: “He can do this as a courtesy and say, ‘I know it came from this tradition, so I’m going to take my special I’m basically claiming the copyright of the work,'” Green says. “But he basically has that registration rights against all the comers that he’ll get on that work.”
Nevertheless, that position may not be sufficient to support a claim of copyright infringement, considering all of the above issues with authorship, determination, and originality.
Ultimately, the issue here may be more ethical than legal, especially since US copyright law doesn’t really make room for ethical considerations. Europe, Green notes, has “moral rights”, which are essentially mandatory if given proper credit. Adding it to US copyright law is an improvement Greene would love to see, saying it could help address long-standing and enduring problems (such as young black people). Not getting credit for viral tiktok dance They create, only to see them successfully monetized by other, often white, creators).
“Attribution is important for artists, even if they can’t claim copyright – it’s important that they get credit for their work” – Kevin J. Green
But when it comes to the ethical issues associated with alleged appropriation, the court of public opinion can be powerful. Green offers two examples. In 2006 – after a pressure campaign in which a . Included Rolling stone Article and a PBS documentary – Disney eventually settled a royalty dispute with the estate of South African musician Solomon Linda, whose 1939 song “mBub” was heavily featured, but without credits, in The Lion King As in the film and stage musical “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. more recently, credit to Lizzo To the author of the tweet that inspired the first line of her breakout hit, “Truth Hurts.”
In “Hobo Ben”/”Sad Motherfuckin’ Parade”, Greene says it is conceivable that Depp and Beck might be “embarrassed” into giving some credit and compensation, “especially in this post-George Floyd era.” ” He goes on to say, “I think this kind of growing awareness, which is really common in the history of the music business, isn’t right now… Attribution is important for artists, even if they don’t claim copyright. can do – it’s important that they get credit for their work.”
Folk research, especially when it comes to field recording, has its long run, problematic history Appropriation, theft, and improper credit. For his part, Jackson has always tried to do right by the people he has worked with. Whatever money his books and albums made — even if “you can’t go out and get him a nice dinner,” he jokes — would be sent to the people who helped him. If he could not locate them, as is often the case with albums of songs from his work recorded in a Texas prison, he instead sent the money to a prisoner’s trust fund.
Michael says his father has been “always extremely generous” with allowing people to use his work, request royalties if there is a budget, and let it slide if there isn’t, but the project is worthwhile. It seems If that money can go to the right person’s property, that’s where it goes; If not, it is given to an appropriate nonprofit. (One such project was b-side, a production staged by the famous experimental theater company, Wooster Group, based on Jackson’s album of Texas Prison Work songs; One follow-up, based on get your ass in the watercurrently working.)
But what clearly bothers Jackson isn’t that someone is using his own work without credit, but taking the other person’s words as his own.
“I don’t know if this record is selling,” Jackson says of Depp and Beck 18, “I’ve seen some reviews I’d be too embarrassed to get if they were my album. But if it’s selling out, Johnny Depp is making a lot of money on it. Should it go to him, or is it someplace like that? But whoever helps the people who created this culture?”