By Courtney E. Smith
Frank Ocean knew this day was coming when he preemptively posted back in March of 2012 on his Tumblr that Rhino Records threatened to sue him over his track “American Wedding” from his nostalgia, ULTRA mixtape, which samples the Eagles hit song “Hotel California.” On the track, Ocean takes the master recording of “Hotel California,” using the music but putting his own lyrics over them.
“I heard it, I was not impressed,” Henley told the Daily Telegraph. “He needs to come up with his own ideas and stop stealing stuff from already established works.”
Henley goes on to suggest that Ocean doesn’t understand U.S. copyright law, which prohibits unapproved use of copyrighted works such as this, even when they are distributed for free as his mixtape originally was.
For his part, Ocean seems to understand perfectly. He just doesn’t care.
“If I don’t show up to court, it’ll be a judgement against me & will probably show up on my credit report. Oh well. I try to buy my s— cash anyway,” Ocean wrote on his Tumblr back in March of 2012.
Ocean’s attitude toward Henley and the Eagles is another burr in Henley’s saddle.
“[Ocean] was quite arrogant about it,” Henley said. ‘We tried to approach him calmly to talk reason to him via his managers and his attorneys and he wouldn’t listen. So finally we threatened to bring legal action against him. He was clearly in the wrong. I wouldn’t dream of doing something like that. What kind of ego is that? I don’t understand it.”
Henley also had some harsh words for Okkervil River, who recorded a version of Henley’s The End of Innocence and had planned to release it for free.
“I don’t know how they’d react if I took one of their songs and rewrote the lyrics and recorded it, I don’t know if they’d like that,” he said. “Maybe they wouldn’t care, but I care. We work really really hard on our material. We spend months writing it and years recording it. You don’t go into a museum and paint a mustache on somebody else’s painting. Nobody would think of doing that.”
Henley’s statements indicate that Ocean hasn’t changed his stance in the two years since the battle’s inception.
“They also asked that I release a statement expressing my admiration for Mr. Henley, along with my assistance pulling it off the web as much as possible,” Ocean wrote. “S—‘s weird. Ain’t this guy rich as f—? 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.”
Mr. Henley begs to differ.
“If I were going to do something like that I’d get permission first,” Henley said. “If you respect somebody you ask their permission to diddle around with their work. You don’t just go and do it.”