Rick Astley Sues Yung Gravy Over Soundalike Voice Featured In ‘Betty (Get Money)’ — ‘A Deliberate and Nearly Indistinguishable Imitation’

rick astley
  • Save

rick astley
  • Save
Rick Astley performing live. Photo Credit: Wjack12

Rick Astley is officially suing Yung Gravy, Dillon Francis, and others over “Betty (Get Money),” which allegedly contains a “nearly indistinguishable” – and unauthorized – imitation of his voice.

56-year-old Rick Astley just recently submitted the firmly worded complaint to a California federal court, naming as defendants (in addition to Yung Gravy and Dillon Francis) “Betty (Get Money)” producers Popnick (real name Nick Seeley) and Dwilly (real name David Wilson) as well as UMG’s Republic Records.

For background, Yung Gravy debuted “Betty” in June of last year, and the track has appeared in all manner of TikTok videos and racked up a staggering 177.19 million Spotify streams. The work imitates and expands upon “Never Gonna Give You Up” (1987), and those who penned the latter track (as well as Astley, who recorded but did not write the song) are credited as songwriters on the newer release.

Bearing in mind these points, the defendants are said to have licensed the underlying “Never Gonna Give You Up” composition, but not the original recording, per the action. Meanwhile, Astley “is extremely protective over his name, image, and likeness and highly selective over what he chooses to endorse and who he affiliates with,” according to the legal text, and opted not to authorize the sampling of his best-known track.

In the absence of this approval, the defendants allegedly “conspired to include a deliberate and nearly indistinguishable imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice throughout the song.” This purported “theft” of the artist’s owned voice was spearheaded by each of the musician defendants, and Popnick allegedly recorded the vocals in question.

After citing several media reports that refer to the “sampling” of “Never Gonna Give You Up” in “Betty,” besides highlighting comments that the defendants offered about the recreation and Astley’s purported approval, the suit alleges that the public has been deceived by the newer work’s vocals.

“The public could not tell the difference. The imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice was so successful the public believed it was actually Mr. Astley singing and/or a direct sample (digital lifting of the actual sounds of Mr. Astley’s voice from the sound recording) of ‘Never Gonna Give You Up,’” the complaint drives home.

On top of allegedly causing listeners to believe that Astley had contributed to “Betty,” the similar-sounding vocals recorded for the 2022 release allegedly “obliterated the opportunity for” Astley to pursue authorized collaborations involving “his voice from ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’”

The Molesey-based plaintiff is specifically alleging the “theft of Mr. Astley’s right of publicity,” a violation of the Lanham Act, and several violations (including unfair competition) of California law. Among other things, Astley is calling for the disgorgement of all profits from “Betty.”

King & Ballow’s Richard Busch is representing Astley, and in a statement, the veteran entertainment industry attorney told Digital Music News that he’s looking forward to litigating the case.

“Mr. Astley owns his voice,” Busch said to DMN. “California law is clear since the Bette Midler case more than 30 years ago that nobody has the right to imitate or use it in a new sound recording without his permission, or pass it off as if he did approve the use. We set out the facts here in great detail in the Complaint, and also set out what the Defendants admitted to themselves. We look forward to now litigating this case on behalf of Mr. Astley.”