What Queen’s Brian May Thought of Vanilla Ice Sampling Controversy
While Vanilla Ice scored a monster hit in 1990 with his song, "Ice Ice Baby," he lost a good portion of the funds from the song after failing to ask permission and credit Queen for his use of the sample. Now, in a recent interview, Queen guitarist Brian May has shared his thoughts on what turned out to be a landmark copyright law court case.
Why Did Queen and Vanilla Ice Go to Court Over "Ice Ice Baby"?
The year was 1990, and Vanilla Ice was quickly rising up the chart with the hit single "Ice Ice Baby." The musician then famously gave an interview in which he attempted to explain how his song differed from the Queen / David Bowie collaboration, "Under Pressure."
"We sampled some from them, but it's not the same bass line," explained Vanilla Ice at the time, noting that they added an extra beat. Eventually, a lawsuit was filed and the musician settled out of court, adding Queen to the credits and having to shell out an undisclosed amount of royalties to the band.
Vanilla Ice Interview Claiming Queen's Bass Line Was Different
What Did Brian May Think?
Speaking to Rosie Bennett (as transcribed by Ultimate-Guitar.com), May revealed that it wasn't necessarily the band's decision to go after Vanilla Ice over the sampling controversy.
"I think it was just on the radio when we heard it... And I remember reading an interview with Vanilla Ice himself [who was asked], 'Didn't you steal this from Queen?' And he said, 'No, theirs is completely different; mine is [mimics virtually the same melody twice]'. I mean, we didn't go to war for it, but the publishers did."
"So, they came to a settlement, which was that he pays us most of the money he's ever generated with that song. We're alright with that [laughs]; we became a part of the writing team, if you like."
What Vanilla Ice Said Years After the Sampling Controversy?
While Vanilla Ice took a lot of flack over his initial claim of his song behind different from Queen's "Under Pressure," in later interviews he did credit the band. In a 2006 interview with the Iowa State Daily, Ice acknowledged the sampling and explained away that now famous interview as a joke.
"It is the exact same one," he explained. "That's why I paid them $4 million. Are you talking about that interview I did like a million years ago that I was like saying, 'Mine goes 'ding ding ding dingy ding dink,' and theirs goes 'ding ding ding, ding ding?' No, dude, that was a joke. That was a laugh and a joke. Yeah, I paid them. I sampled that song straight out. That's why when you read the credits on 'Ice Ice Baby' now it says Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, because they're on there."
What Brian May Feels Is the Moral of the Story
While reflecting on the case, May offered, "That's an interesting example though, isn't it? I mean, he made something new and interesting, and people liked it. So, I guess it's about acknowledging your influences, that's the decent thing to do."
"I hope that I've always done it," he continued. "Sometimes you want to quote someone deliberately — like [Sergey] Rachmaninoff's 'Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.' He was upfront about what he was doing, so nobody minded it. If he stole that stuff without acknowledging it, it would be different."
May concluded, "'Ice Ice Baby,' it still makes me smile."
Vanilla Ice, "Ice Ice Baby"
Queen & David Bowie, "Under Pressure"
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Gallery Credit: Joe DiVita