Old School Pop Culture Fight: Bill Murray and the Doobie Brothers
The world’s a weird place, and it feels as though 2020 was the year to really shine a spotlight on just how strange things can be. It was a year of hearing, saying, and reading sentences that you never imagined. The feud between the Doobie Brothers and Bill Murray was one of those. Now, for the uninitiated, let’s learn a bit about these giants of pop culture.
Bill Murray is an actor who was on Saturday Night Live in the 70s and went on to star in some of the biggest films in history. Most will know him from the Ghostbusters franchise, but he was in countless other great movies including Caddyshack, Stripes, Groundhog Day, and Rushmore to name a few.
The Doobie Brothers is a band that’s been around for decades. They started in the 1970s and were one of the top bands of that era. Some of their hit songs you may be familiar with—even if you weren’t aware of the artist—include “Long Train Running”, “What a Fool Believes”, “China Grove”, “Black Water”, “It Keeps You Runnin’”, and “Listen to the Music”. It’s this last song that is the source of contention.
The Doobie Brothers and Bill Murray kerfuffle started on September 23, 2020, after Bill Murray’s company William Murray Golf started using the song “Listen to the Music” in some of their commercials. Apparently, the golf company did not get permission to use the song, so attorneys for The Doobie Brothers sent a legal warning to Murray’s team.
The letter from the attorneys had an element of humor to it, which should be appreciated. Among other things, including insulting the shirts Murray was selling, the letter said:
“It’s a fine song. I know you agree because you keep using it in ads for your Zero Hucks Given golf shirts. However, given that you haven’t paid to use it, maybe you should change the company name to ‘Zero Bucks Given.’ This is the part where I’m supposed to cite the United States Copyright Act, excoriate you for not complying with some subparagraph that I’m too lazy to look up, and threaten you with eternal damnation for doing so. But you already earned that with those Garfield movies. And you already know you can’t use music in ads without paying for it.”
Not to be outdone, Murray’s attorneys responded with a humorous letter their own. Their letter used a lot of puns based on the music of The Doobie Brothers, such as, “We appreciate your firm’s choice of “Takin’ It to the Streets” rather than the courts.” The letter also had barbs of its own, including a reference to one of the band’s attorneys also representing Robin Thicke and Pharrell in the “Blurred Lines” case. Murray’s attorneys even offered to send the band some apparel. Given the fact that the band’s attorneys already mentioned how much they don’t like the look of the clothing, this is a funny dig at them.
At the core, the argument is about Murray’s marketing team using a song that’s copyrighted without paying the owner. This is a serious problem, but the two powerhouses will likely be able to work out an agreement or stop using the song without paying for the rights. It is nice to see that they can handle things out of court. At least that’s how things seem. Hopefully, it will be their last feud, and everyone can go back to listening to great music and enjoying Murray movies without feeling the need to take sides.