Beefs 2014: The Eagles' Don Henley Lashes Out at Frank Ocean and Okkervil River over Song Theft
In a new interview with Australia's Daily Telegraph [via the Guardian], Henley brought up his criticisms of both Ocean and Okkervil River yet again. In regards to "American Wedding," which Ocean released on his free Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape, Henley said, "I was not impressed. He needs to come up with his own ideas and stop stealing stuff from already established works."
He continued: "Mr Ocean doesn't seem to understand U.S. 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."
He further said that his representatives had tried to approach Ocean reasonably, and Henley ended up threatening legal action after Ocean was "arrogant" about his alleged wrongdoing.
More recently, Henley demanded that Okkervil River remove their cover of "The End of the Innocence," which was recorded for the band's Golden Opportunities mixtape series.
"They don't understand the law either," Henley argued. "You can't rewrite 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. We were not impressed. So we simply had our legal team tell them to take it down and they got all huffy about it."
He compared the revisions to "[painting] a mustache on some else's painting," and said, "I don't know how they'd react if I took one of their songs and re-wrote the lyrics and recorded it, I don't know if they'd like that."
In response, Okkervil River's Will Sheff posted the following series of tweets:
I would be honored if Don Henley took one of my songs and re-wrote the lyrics and recorded it. That's how folk music works. Love you Don.— Okkervil River (@okkervilriver) June 4, 2014
(Honestly I think copyright law is garbage that damages the culture. Some of the best art is built around (loving) theft & defacement.)— Okkervil River (@okkervilriver) June 4, 2014
Artists should be allowed to pass ideas back & forth. It should less about if "stole" something, more abt if you made it original. 2 cents.— Okkervil River (@okkervilriver) June 4, 2014
This follows Sheff's prior comments made to The Music back in February. At the time, he said, "I really love 'The End of the Innocence' sincerely, and it's a real dick move, man. I guess he's an old fashioned guy who doesn't understand. I mean the fucking thing was free! I don't really get what his issue with it was, it's not like I was making money — I figure that's all he fucking cares about anyway, know what I mean? It's not like I was making money off it, but he still made me take it down. If I was charging money for it he would get some of that money — maybe that's what it was, because people weren't paying him for it."
So much great painting/writing/folk/rap/blues creatively plagiarizes from others. Artists get this. Lawyers dwell on small details & don't.— Okkervil River (@okkervilriver) June 4, 2014
Ocean took a similar view of Henley back in 2012, writing on Tumblr, "Ain't this guy rich as fuck? Why sue the new guy? I didn't make a dime off that song. I released it for free. If anything I'm paying homage."