Rick Astley, Yung Gravy
Rick Astley, Yung Gravy | Photos by Michael Putland + Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

Rick Astley Sues Yung Gravy Over ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ Impersonation on ‘Betty (Get Money)’

‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ singer Rick Astley has filed a lawsuit against rapper Yung Gravy over his 2022 single ‘Betty (Get Money)’, which heavily interpolates Astley’s 1987 hit. In the lawsuit, filed last week in a Los Angeles court, Astley argues that while Yung Gravy – real name Matthew Hauri – had permission to use the ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ instrumental, the rapper was not permitted to use Astley’s actual voice on the track’s opening.

Astley claims Hauri and his collaborators instead recreated Astley’s voice for the track’s opening, which recites lyrics from ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. According to Astley’s lawyers, this represents an “unauthorized, intentional, theft of his voice for commercial purposes.”

Yung Gravy – ‘Betty (Get Money)’

Astley is suing Hauri and his collaborators (producers Popnick, Dillion Francis and dwilly) along with Republic Records for violating his right of publicity, false endorsement, unfair competition and more. A jury trial is sought and Astley is seeking all profits from the “violation of Mr. Astley’s rights” as well as Astley’s damages, which are “believed to be in the millions of dollars”.

“In an effort to capitalize off the immense popularity and goodwill of Mr. Astley, Defendants conspired to include a deliberate and nearly indistinguishable imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice throughout the song,” the filing reads. “The imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice was so successful the public believed it was actually Mr. Astley singing and/or a direct sample.”

The lawsuit references the 1988 case between Bette Midler and Ford Motor Company, who used a Midler impersonator for a series of commercials in the 1980s when the singer refused to participate. While Midler’s image was not used in the commercial, the impersonation was remarkably close to Midler’s own voice, leading some to believe it was the singer herself.

The court eventually ruled that the voice of a famous person such as a singer is distinctive to that person and therefore it is not lawful to imitate their voice without their express permission, ruling that Midler’s voice was protected against unauthorised use.

“A license to use the original underlying musical composition does not authorize the stealing of the artist’s voice in the original recording,” Astley’s lawyers argue. “To use the artist’s voice, the creators of a new recording need a license to copy the actual sounds of the voice from the sound recording, a so-called ‘sample’ license of the actual sounds of the voice from the sound recording.

“As stated, Defendants absolutely knew that to be the case, as Gravy said he tried but failed for years to obtain a sound recording sample license. So, instead, they resorted to theft of Mr. Astley’s voice without a license and without agreement.”

Yung Gravy is yet to publicly comment on the lawsuit. ‘Betty (Get Money)’ was released in June of last year, as the lead single from his third studio album, Marvelous. Over the weekend, it placed 97 on the triple j Hottest 100 of 2022.

Further Reading

Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2022: 100-1

Yung Gravy Announces February 2023 Australian Tour

Rick Astley Covered Post Malone’s ‘Better Now’ And It, Uh, Kinda Slaps

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