Uptown Fu*ked: Ronson, Mars Smash Hit Adds More Songwriters to Cast

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Posted May 6, 2015 by J Matthew Cobb in Features
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The funk is starting to smell around new copyright claims surrounding Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”

Looks like Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars will have to split the pot when it comes to their mega hit “Uptown Funk.”

That part when they sing “Uptown funk ya up, uptown funk ya up” sounds a bit like “Oops upside your head/say oops upside your head.” That’s according to new legal action surrounding the Ronson-produced song, which recently finished a fourteen week run at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

Originally the No. 1 hit song only contained six songwriters ‒ Ronson, Mars, co-producer Jeffrey Bhasker and Phillip Lawrence (one of Mars’ partners in his production team The Smeezingtons), along with Nicholas Williams (aka Trinidad James) and producer Devon Gallaspy. The latter two writers were later added when contents of the song “All Gold Everything” were suspected in the composition. Since April 8, that number has mushroomed to a whopping eleven.

The Gap Band (Ronnie, Charlie and Robert Wilson)

The writers of the Gap Band 1979 R&B hit “Oops Upside Your Head,” which include Charlie Wilson, Ronnie Wilson, (the deceased) Robert Wilson along with keyboardist Rudolph Taylor and producer Lonnie Simmons, are now added to the list. After a YouTube copyright claim was made on behalf of Minder Music, who owns the Gap Band’s catalog, YouTube acted by haulting from paying publishers their money. That revenue is usually placed into an escrow account, until the action is settled. According to sources who spoke with Billboard, the song’s ownership was then split at more than 100 percent.

A modified breakdown of the new payment measures was recently released by Billboard and will go a little something like this:

  • Bhasker/SonyATV: 17 percent.
  • Gallaspy/SonyATV: 7.5 percent.
  • Ronson/Imagem: 17 percent.
  • Gap Band/Minder: 17 percent.
  • Lawrence: 17 percent.
  • Trinidad James/Trinlanta: 5.625 percent.
  • Trinidad James Record label/TIG7 Publishing: 1.875 percent.
  • Mars/Mars Force Music/BMG Chrysalis: 14.875 percent.
  • Mars/Northside Independent Music/Warner/Chappel Music: 2.125 percent.
  • Warner/Chappell, through its January 2011 acquisition of Southside Independent Music, owns 25 percent of Mars publishing — but collects only its 12.5 percent share (in this instance 12.5 percent of 17 percent, or 2.125 percent) as BMG administers all of Mars’ writer share.

This news comes at a troubling time for acts who depend on nostalgia to make their hit records. Just last March, a jury found that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams unlawfully plagiarized Marvin Gaye’s song “Got to Give It Up” and awarded the Gaye estate close to $7.4 million. Danny Zook, who manages Trinidad James, responded when asked if the verdict in the “Blurred Lines” case had anything to with his decision.  “Everyone is being a little more cautious. Nobody wants to be involved in a lawsuit. Once a copyright dispute goes to a trial, [if a jury is used], it is subject to be decided by public opinion — and no longer resolved based entirely on copyright law.”

Ronson and company may not be entirely out of the woods yet. As we mentioned when we previously reviewed the song, there are so many ‘80s funk influences and trademarks used in the song that it feels like a collage of George Clinton past. Echoes of Morris Day & the Time (cough, Prince) and Zapp can be heard throughout much of the jam. And that lyric “Dance, jump on it” is awfully familiar to the golden hip-hop standard “Apache (Jump on It),” made famous by the Sugarhill Gang.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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