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Don Henley and Rapper Face Off Over ‘Hotel California’ Sampling

Don Henley
Charley Gallay, Getty Images

When rapper Frank Ocean released his ‘Nostalgia’ mixtape, it featured a song called ‘American Wedding’ that had an uncleared sample of The Eagles classic tune ‘Hotel California’ — something that didn’t make Don Henley, the song’s co-author, or his label very happy.

On his Tumblr blog, Ocean shared the news that Henley has threatened to sue him for violating copyright law, which he considers a bit of a badge of honor.

Ocean posted the following message at first, pointing the finger at Henley:

“Don Henley is apparently intimidated by my rendition of ‘Hotel California.’ He threatened to sue if I perform it again. I think it’s f—in’ awesome.”

The post was then amended a few hours later to read as follows:

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 f—in 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 s— 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. S—’s weird. Ain’t this guy rich as f—? 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.

‘Nostalgia’ was not commercially released, but the YouTube clip of the song has been removed due to copyright infringement. Ocean is not known as a shrinking violet, so since he’ll be in the Golden State, chances are he’ll perform ‘American Wedding’ — which should piss Henley (or his label) off.

Also, it sort of goes without saying that since Ocean used the track, he obviously digs the song and admires the author. But at the end of the day, copyright laws are copyright laws. You can’t use samples of intellectual and artistic property without asking nicely — or at least getting legal clearance — first.

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