Good news for ascendant R&B crooner Frank Ocean: He is now famous enough that Mr. Don Henley knows his name. Unfortunately, acknowledgement of that knowledge has come via the threat of legal action — apparently, Henley and his label finally got around to checking out Ocean’s rad breakup jam “American Wedding” and are not too psyched about the fact that Frank wholesale lifted “Hotel California” for it.
The tussle went public when Ocean posted a message to his Tumblr:
“Don henley(’s label — Rhino) is apparently intimidated by my rendition of Hotel California..
He (They) threatened to sue if I perform it again. I think that’s fuckin awesome. I guess if I play it at coachella it’ll cost me a couple hundred racks. 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 shit cash anyway. 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. Shit’s weird. 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.”
MTV then touched base with Larry Solters, a spokesperson for The Eagles, who explained the dudes were mad because “Frank Ocean did not merely ‘sample’ a portion of the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’; he took the whole master track, plus the song’s existing melody, and replaced the lyrics with his own. This is not creative, let alone ‘intimidating.’ It’s illegal.” Also: “For the record, Don Henley has not threatened or instituted any legal action against Frank Ocean, although the Eagles are now considering whether they should.”
Drag. With all due respect to intellectual property laws, why are The Eagles being such dicks about this? “Release a statement expressing my admiration for Mr. Henley”? Isn’t that what the song does? It’d be one thing if Ocean had taken “Hotel California” and then let his Odd Future pals on the track to rap about abducting Glenn Frey’s children or whatever. But he made a smart, earnest song that’s a boon to the original. “Shit’s weird. Ain’t this guy rich as fuck?” pretty much says it all.
But let’s not forget the positive in all this: The Don Henley is checking out Frank Ocean’s stuff!