Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck stole an incarcerated inmate’s song recorded from Missouri State prison in 1964.
Known as “the bloodiest 47 acres in America ” by Time magazine, Missouri State Penitentiary was a living hell hole. A total of 40 executions occurred there, with death row inmates being held below-ground. That, along with the high number of assaults that took place at Missouri State, made this prison one of the worse prisons in United States history.
While serving a sentence there, Slim Wilson, wrote a song which would become known as Hobo Ben. Bruce Jackson recorded him reciting ‘Hobo Ben’ at the prison in 1964, and later put it out on vinyl in the album, “Get Your Ass In The Water And Swim Like Me (Narrative Poetry From Black Oral Tradition)”.
And then comes Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck. The pair stole the lyrics and style of Slim’s song, put it on their new album, 18, never credited Wilson and are acting like they didn’t know anything about it. To add insult to injury, they’re actually suing Bruce Jackson for telling people about them plagiarizing Slim Wilson and them effectively stealing from black culture and music.
A whole damn shame.
Check the songs side by side here. There’s no way around it.
Slim Wilson, it should be noted, is a pseudonym that Jackson gave to him along with giving aliases to all incarcerated people he spoke to, to make sure they didn’t get in trouble with the wardens. Nice one Bruce. Jackson says Slim’s real name was either Willy or Willie Davis; Rolling Stone tried to track down additional information about Davis but was unsuccessful.
Hopefully restitution is made to Blacks whose creative expressions – in often the worse of circumstances -has been stolen from and worn publicly as their own by white people in power positions.