Ed Sheeran Is Threatening To Quit Music Over Legal Case

Ed Sheeran claims he'll retire if he loses his legal case.

By Phillip Moyer | Published

Ed Sheeran, the singer-songwriter famous for his songs “Shape of You” and “Perfect,” has just threatened to quit the industry. The popular musician, whose songs have appeared in shows like Monarch and films like Yesterday, has recently been accused of ripping off the 1973 Marvin Gaye song “Let’s Get It On” with his 2014 song “Thinking Out Loud.” According to Consequence Sound, the 32-year-old musician has said he’ll be done with the music industry if he loses the lawsuit.

These comments come after Ed Sheeran’s legal team delivered closing arguments in front of a jury, bringing a lawsuit that has been going on since 2017 close to completion. It is now up to a jury to decide whether the two songs are substantially similar enough to consider Sheeran’s song to be copyright infringement. 

The lawsuit against Ed Sheeran centers around the beginning of both songs, which the plaintiffs, including the family of “Let’s Get It On” co-writer Ed Townsend, claim are substantially similar. Sheeran and co-writer Amy Wade have categorically denied that he based any part of the song on Gaye’s music. Instead, they claim they thought the song sounded more like Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison, a claim that even resulted in Sheeran singing Van Morrison songs in the courtroom.

However, Musicologist Alexander Stewart, an expert witness for the plaintiffs, has contested Ed Sheeran’s claims. Stewart, who teaches jazz studies and ethnomusicology at the University of Vermont, has testified that the songs are substantially similar. Stewart has previously given similar testimony against Led Zepplin, Justin Bieber, and The Weeknd.

Ed Sheeran in the Thinking Out Loud music video

Ed Sheeran has said that chord progressions of this sort are extremely commonplace in pop music and has said that the UVM musicologist’s testimony against him is “criminal,” questioning whether the professor is truly an expert in his field. In fact, a jury has found against the claims made by Stewart in the past. Of the lawsuits that Stewart testified in, only one has gone to trial, the lawsuit against Led Zepplin, which ended with the jury finding in favor of Led Zepplin. 

Ed Sheeran isn’t the only musician who has been accused of ripping off Marvin Gaye. Marvin Gaye’s family sued Robin Thicke over the alleged similarities between Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up” and Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” This lawsuit ended in the plaintiffs’ favor, with Thicke being ordered to pay $5 million.

If Ed Sheeran loses the lawsuit and makes good on his threat to quit the industry, it would mean the end of a career that has lasted almost two decades, starting in 2004 when he independently released the album Spinning Man at the age of 13. Over the course of his career, he has won numerous awards, including four Grammy Awards, five Billboard Music Awards, and one BBC Music Award. “Thinking of You,” the song at the center of the lawsuit, was nominated for a Grammy Award, MTV Video Music Award, and iHeartRadio Music Award, among many other accolades.