In case you were wondering what Don Henley thought when Frank Ocean took the master tape for The Eagles‘ 1977 classic “Hotel California” and sang over the instrumental track for his mixtape song “American Wedding” a few years back, let’s just say he was none too pleased.
“I heard it,” Henley said of Ocean’s song in a new interview with Australia’s Daily Telegraph. “I was not impressed. He needs to come up with his own ideas and stop stealing stuff from already established works.”
Given that Ocean’s song was offered up for free in 2011 via a mixtape, he didn’t make a profit from it. Still, Henley got his lawyers involved, which prompted Frank to post on Tumblr that the Eagles member was “apparently intimidated by my rendition of ‘Hotel California’” and that he “threatened to sue if I perform it again.”
Frank Ocean — ”American Wedding”
Henley opened up to the Telegraph at length about the issue:
Mr Ocean doesn’t seem to understand US copyright law. 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. That’s a problem with some of the younger generation, they don’t understand the concept of intellectual property and copyright.
(Mr Ocean) was quite arrogant about it. We tried to approach him calmly to talk reason to him via his managers and his attorneys and he wouldn’t listen. So finally we threatened to bring legal action against him. He was clearly in the wrong. I wouldn’t dream of doing something like that. What kind of ego is that? I don’t understand it.
The 66-year-old rock legend went on to express his displeasure over a somewhat similar situation with the Texas indie band Okkervil River, who covered Henley’s 1989 solo hit “The End Of The Innocence” but changed some of the lyrics, apparently without permission.
“They don’t understand the law either,” Henley told the Teleghraph. “You can’t re-write the lyrics to somebody else’s songs and record it and put it on the internet. I’m sorry, but it wasn’t an improvement.”
Henley later added, “You can record anyone’s song you like. It’s called a compulsory license. That’s not what Mr. Ocean nor Okkervil River did.”
Sometimes, kids, it just doesn’t pay to mess with the classics…especially if they’re written by Don Henley.
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