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Ed Sheeran song ‘sounds very, very similar’ to Marvin Gaye’s, music expert says at trial

<i>Seth Wenig/AP</i><br/>Ed Sheeran (left) arrives at Manhattan federal court in New York on April 26.
AP
Seth Wenig/AP
Ed Sheeran (left) arrives at Manhattan federal court in New York on April 26.

By Jennifer Korn and Nicki Brown, CNN

Musician Ed Sheeran’s court case continued Wednesday in a high-profile copyright trial about whether his smash single “Thinking Out Loud” copied the classic Marvin Gaye song “Let’s Get It On.”

Dr. Alexander Stewart, a music expert called by the plaintiffs on Wednesday, testified about the similarities he perceives in aspects of the two songs, saying that the chord progression in the two songs “sound very, very similar” to him.

Sheeran is accused of copying “Let’s Get It On” by the heirs of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote the 1973 hit with Gaye. Townsend’s daughter Kathryn Townsend Griffin, sister Helen McDonald and the estate of his former wife, Cherrigale Townsend, are the listed plaintiffs on the “Thinking Out Loud” case. Gaye died in 1984 and Townsend died in 2003.

In Stewart’s testimony Wednesday, he said in his view the two songs “have the same harmonic rhythm,” referring to the rate of change of the chords. In particular he sees melodic similarities in the verse, chorus and interlude of Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” he said.

After the first couple of minutes of Sheeran’s attorney cross examining Stewart, Townsend Griffin’s eyes shut and legs failed.

Quickly, people on both the Sheeran and Townsend camps rushed to help and carry Townsend Griffin out of the courtroom.

The judge asked to call court security officers and nurses and there were shouts to call 911.

The Townsend family members did not come back inside the courtroom and Ilene Farkas, Sheeran’s attorney, continued to cross examine Stewart after about a 15-minute pause.

When court concluded, the judge asked about Townsend Griffin’s condition and a woman who helped her get outside the courtroom told the judge she was taken to the hospital.

Case to resume Thursday

British singer Sheeran’s legal team has argued that the sounds used in both songs are common in pop music. “No one owns basic musical building blocks,” Farkas told the jury in opening remarks Tuesday.

In his own opening statement Tuesday, Townsend attorney Ben Crump noted Sheeran played his ballad and Gaye’s song back-to-back in a medley during a concert, and called the moment a “smoking gun.”

Sheeran was called to the stand Tuesday by Townsend attorney Keisha Rice, and during his testimony the musician said the idea of creating the medley was “probably mine.” He said if he had indeed copied “Let’s Get It On,” then he “would’ve been an idiot to stand on stage in front of 20,000 people.”

Court will resume Thursday morning at 11 a.m., according to the judge.

CNN is reaching out to attorneys for Townsend Griffin to get an update on her condition.

– CNN’s Sabrina Souza contributed to this report

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