Rod Stewart is facing a lawsuit for a song more than a century old, as the estate of Bo Carter (legal name: Armenter Chatmon) is suing over a version of the song "Corrine, Corrina" that the former Faces vocalist included on his 2013 album Time. The song, a blues standard, has been covered numerous times over the years—from artists including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Willie Nelson—so why is Stewart the one in legal limbo?
"Defendants had access to the Carter Songs at the time they recorded and produced the Infringing Song due to the Carter Songs' popularity and fame as well as its prominent publication since at least 1929," reads the complaint.
OK, but something doesn't become a blues "standard" by being covered by just one performer. What's wrong with Stewart's cover? Perhaps the issue is whether Stewart's can be considered a "cover" at all. Billboard notes that the Carter estate doesn't use the term at all during the lawsuit. What's the story?
A cover doesn't require licensing or permission from the original performer or owner for another musician to take a crack at it. That doesn't mean that the original songwriter doesn't get compensated-a set royalty is placed by law, ensuring the first performer gets a cut. No word on whether the Carter estate received these royalties, and it certainly didn't license the song out. But this still doesn't answer why the plaintiffs imply that Stewart's version is straight-up theft versus an honest cover.
Here's a hint: The Time tracklist reads "Corrina, Corrina"...not the original "Corrine, Corrina." The songs are obviously the same, but the Carter estate is attempting to suggest that Stewart was suggesting otherwise. It's a tricky argument, especially with a song that's already walking the line in terms of public domain. That might suggest that Cream was attempting rip off Robert Johnson with the song "Crossroads" by not naming it "Cross Road Blues." We shall see.