Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck, both American actors and musicians, have been accused of plagiarising lyrics for their song ‘Sad Motherf***in’ Parade.’ A Rolling Stone report stated that the duo was accused of stealing the song from an obscure ‘toast’ sung by an incarcerated man and documented and released by a folklorist in 1974, according to Variety.
Many of the lyrics in the Depp/Beck song ’18’ are strikingly similar to lines from a toast, an often-profane form of Black folk poetry from years ago known as ‘Hobo Ben.’ It was allegedly written by a man named Slim Wilson while incarcerated at Missouri State Penitentiary for armed robbery, and it was documented by Bruce Jackson in his 1974 book about toasts, ‘Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me,’ as well as a companion album. Variety reported that Wilson, whose name is a pen name, is not listed in the song’s credits.
In the toast, ‘Hobo Ben,’ the man in the song’s title is at a party and says, ‘Ladies of culture and beauty so refined, is there one among you that would grant me wine? / I’m raggedy I know, but I have no stink/and God bless the lady that’ll buy me a drink.’ With a laugh, heavy-hipped Hattie turned to Nadine and said, ‘What that funky motherfucker really needs, child, is a bath.’
‘Sad Motherf***in’ Parade’ contains lines like, ‘I’m raggedy, I know, but I have no stink,’ ‘God bless the lady who’ll buy me a drink,’ and ‘What that funky motherf***er really needs, child, is a bath.’ ‘The only two lines I could find in the entire piece that [Depp and Beck] contributed are ‘Big time motherf***er’ and ‘Bust it down to my level,’ Jackson told Rolling Stone, according to Variety.