Lawsuit: Willie Nelson plagiarized Cherokee County songwriter

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Lawsuit: Willie Nelson plagiarized Cherokee County songwriter

A Woodstock woman is suing singer songwriter Willie Nelson saying the lyrics of a song on his “Heroes” album are “substantially and strikingly similar” to one written by her and her partner.

The lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Atlanta by Ashley Wilson, 45, and the estate of Mark Reynolds contends Nelson’s 2012 “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” was written by Wilson and Reynolds in 1990 and was performed by Reynolds in the 1990s and played on Georgia radio.

The lawsuit accuses Nelson, his four listed co-authors and record companies of copyright infringement with their version of the cannabis-loving song.

“More specifically, the infringing work contains the same title and dominant line in the chorus as the original work, with substantially similar melody, rhythm and cadence, as well as substantially similar lyrical themes,” the lawsuit said.

The accusation comes just as a jury awarded Marvin Gaye’s children $7.4 million Tuesday in Los Angles after finding singers Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied their father’s music to create “Blurred Lines” the biggest hit song of 2013.

The verdict could tarnish the legacy of Williams, a reliable hit-maker who has won Grammy Awards and appears on NBC’s music competition show “The Voice.”

Whether the Atlanta lawsuit could have the same effect on the legendary Nelson of Spicewood, Texas is open to question. Jeffrey Sladkus, lawyer for the estate and Wilson, declined comment on the case and only said his clients hoped to settle the ownership question amicably.

Nelson’s publicist Elaine Schock was not immediately available for comment

The Wilson and Reynolds song “Roll Me Up (And Smoke Me When I Die) was released on its own album in 1991 and was published in March 2012 on YouTube before Nelson’s version spent five weeks at the top of the American radio chart, according to the lawsuit.

A 1996 Youtube posting says the song was on Wilson’s and Reynolds 1992 album Covertown. A YouTube posting has “Uncle Mark Reynolds” explaining the genesis of the lyrics.

“Mark had been playing this song for over 5 years at this point performing solo in the Southeast and also with the duo Ashley and Mark and often at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur,” A fan posted on YouTube. “This song is a lot like the one Willie Nelson released in 2012. Not sure how it got to Willie and friends, but seems like Mark Reynolds deserves some credit.”

The lawsuit contends that a songwriter John Colgin, who is named author of the song performed by Nelson, became familiar with the the original version when “likely” collaborating with Reynolds on songwriting. Colgin lived in Roswell until 2004, the same year Reynolds, then 44, died, the lawsuit said.

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