Actor Johnny Depp and guitarist Jeff Beck were accused in a Friday report of using lines from a poem written by a Missouri State Penitentiary prisoner for the lyrics of a song by their recently released collaborative album.
rolling stone wrote that the song in question, titled “Sad Motherf**kin’ Parade”, appears to share many lines with “Hobo Ben”, a poem credited to a prisoner named Slim Wilson. Folklorist Bruce Jackson included Wilson’s poem in the 1974 print collection Get your A** in the water and swim like meand on a recorded album of the same name.
Jackson told the magazine he met Wilson in the mid-1960s when the man was incarcerated for armed robbery. He documented the prisoner’s “toasts,” which have been described as a gritty form of black folk poetry often seen as a precursor to rap lyrics.
About the Depp and Beck song, which only lists the duo as songwriters, Jackson told rolling stone that he only found two lines in the track that weren’t from “Hobo Ben”.
“Everything else comes from Slim’s performance in my book,” Jackson said. “I’ve never come across anything like this. I’ve been posting stuff for 50 years, and this is the first time anyone’s ever just ripped something off and put their own name on it.”
rolling stone said pursuing legal action against Depp and Beck would not be an easy matter since “Hobo Ben” is considered part of an oral tradition that does not attribute works to a single author. Jackson also told the magazine that Wilson told him he learned “Hobo Ben” from his father.
Even if the song lyric accusations don’t land Depp in a courtroom, it will no doubt draw more attention to the actor, whose name remains in the news after the highly publicized lawsuit against his ex-wife, Amber Heard.
Depp had sued Heard for $50 million for defamation over a 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post, of which she claimed to have been the victim of domestic violence. A civil jury returned a verdict on June 1 that awarded Depp a total of $8.35 million after the judge lowered the punitive award and figured in $2 million awarded to Heard for his countersuit for nuisance.
Since the trial, Depp has focused heavily on music with Beck. The duo released the 13-track album 18 on July 15 and gave concerts abroad throughout the summer.
Depp also launched his first formal art collection last week at London’s Castle Fine Art gallery, which sold “almost immediately” for more than $3.6 million, according to The Sunday Times.
Newsweek contacted Depp and Depp/Beck’s label for comment.