Ed Sheeran threatens to quit music if found guilty of plagiarism

Sheeran has returned to court in Manhattan. (Photo: Liz Collins for Rolling Stone)
Sheeran has returned to court in Manhattan. (Photo: Liz Collins for Rolling Stone)

Ed Sheeran has threatened to turn his back on the music industry if found guilty of plagiarism.

The pop megastar is currently fighting a court case over his 2015 hit, ‘Thinking Out Loud’. He is being sued, alongside his collaborator Amy Wadge, by one of the co-writers of the 1973 Marvin Gaye classic ‘Let’s Get It On’. Ed Townsend alleges that Sheeran and Wadge lifted the rhythm from Gaye’s track, as well as an ascending four-chord sequence; the lawsuit makes reference to “striking similarities” between the two tracks.

Sheeran has vehemently denied plagiarism and now, in an appearance in a Manhattan courtroom yesterday (May 1), has gone as far as to say that he will call time on his glittering career if the case goes against him. “If that happens, I’m done, I’m stopping,” he said. “I find it really insulting to devote my whole life to being a performer and a songwriter and have someone diminish it.”

The pronouncement came during Sheeran’s second day on the stand. He also claimed that other songwriters are cheering him on over the case, saying that such lawsuits are a threat to them in general. “When you write songs, somebody comes after you,” he said.

Last week, Townsend’s attorney presented a clip of Sheeran performing a mash-up of ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and ‘Let’s Get It On’ onstage in Zurich as a “smoking gun”, claiming it counts as a tacit admission by Sheeran that he lifted from Gaye’s song.

Sheeran dismissed the suggestion, saying he used mashups at his gigs to “spice it up a bit” and tended to choose cover songs with similar chord progressions to his own, as well as similar thematic elements. “If it’s a love song, you might mash it up with another love song,” he suggested, putting forward Elvis Presley’s take on ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love with You’ and Whitney Houston’s version of ‘I Will Always Love You’ as tracks that would blend well with ‘Thinking Out Loud’.

Sheeran also claimed that his label referred to the track as “the Van Morrison song”, playing the Northern Irishman’s music in court to demonstrate how easily songs with similar chord sequences can turn out sounding similar. The proceedings continue.

Sheeran’s fifth studio album, , is out on Friday (May 5). He begins a months-long stadium tour of the US a day later, in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium.