Prague court to decide if James Bay stole from Karel Gott for hit song

Proceedings are underway in Prague to determine if Bay's 2014 hit Hold Back the River was derived from a song made famous by the Czech crooner. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 03.09.2023 09:48:00 (updated on 03.09.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Did English singer-songwriter James Bay steal from legendary Czech crooner Karel Gott? Legal proceedings are now underway in Prague to determine if Bay's breakout 2014 hit Hold Back the River was derived from Gott's rendition of Pábitelé (Wonderland), reports

On Friday, Prague's Municipal Court took on the task of determining whether the music behind James Bay's hit song might have been derived from the Gott's classic. The legal dispute was initiated by Ladislav Štaidl, the original songwriter of Pábitelé, and is now being carried forward by his son, Jiří, following Ladislav's passing.

The court proceedings began with expert testimony from experts from the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts (JAMU), aiming to discern if there were any substantial similarities in the melodies of the two songs.

While JAMU experts acknowledged some similarities in certain musical bars, they ultimately opined that these resemblances did not necessarily signify direct derivation. Their analysis considered broader elements, including the overall composition's sound, harmonization, and the distinct vocal styles employed by the two singers.

According to JAMU, the essence of these songs lies in their unique elements, with the common melody sharing similarities with other compositions as well.

However, Štaidl's legal representative introduced an opposing viewpoint from the Music and Dance Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (HAMU). HAMU's perspective contends that James Bay's composition is indeed derived from Štaidl's work, opposing the verdict of JAMU.

The legal deliberations surrounding this case are set to continue, with proceedings resuming in early December. This case has garnered significant attention, as it involves a song that has seen international success and recognition.

Hold Back the River, released by James Bay in 2014, reached the second spot on the UK Singles Chart and received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Song. It currently has more than 250 million views on YouTube.

Pábitelé, meanwhile, was originally performed by Karel Gott in 1984, with an English-language version titled Wonderland from the Czech crooner, who passed away in 2019, released in 1988.

Accusations of plagiarism are common in the music industry, with many high profile cases ending up in courts. Famous cases include The Verve being sued by The Rolling Stones over Bittersweet Symphony and the heirs of Marvin Gaye taking on Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for Blurred Lines.

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