“To this day, people ask me, ‘Are you tired of hearing people say, who you gonna call?’” Ray Parker, Jr. told Entertainment Weekly in 2016. “Well, no! It’s like, am I tired of holding the best lotto ticket or the best thing to ever happen? No.”
Even if you don’t immediately know Ray Parker, Jr. by name, you definitely know the song he’s talking about. The Detroit-born musician scored one of the biggest hits of the early 1980s with “Ghostbusters,” the theme song for, uh, Ghostbusters. Parker’s insistence that he wasn’t “‘fraid of no ghosts” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100, and was even nominated for an Oscar, because the 1980s were weird as shit.
But although he may not get tired of people shouting the song’s catch phrase in his face, he probably doesn’t want any more questions about that lawsuit filed by another 1980s hit factory, Huey Lewis. And even if you asked, he’s legally not allowed to answer.
According to Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, he wanted the movie to include a song that sounded a lot like “I Want a New Drug,” Lewis’ own Top 10 track. “I was a big Huey Lewis fan, and I put in “I Want a New Drug,” as a temp score for screenings,” he told Esquire in 2014. “And it seemed to be a perfect tempo, and we cut the montage to that tempo.”
Some sources claim that both Lewis and Fleetwood Mac’s tightly permed ballbag Lindsey Buckingham turned down the chance to record a track for Ghostbusters — the former because he was already committed to the Back to the Future soundtrack, the latter because he’d just written a song for National Lampoon’s Vacation — Reitman turned his attention elsewhere.
“When it was time to mix the movie, someone introduced me to Ray Parker Jr., and he comes back with a song called ‘Ghostbusters’ that has basically the same kind of riff [as ‘I Want a New Drug’] in it,” Reitman continued. “But it was a totally original song, original lyrics, original everything.”
It didn’t sound original to Lewis and his attorneys though, and they filed a lawsuit against both Parker and Columbia Pictures. Although Reitman confirmed that those involved “decided to settle” with Lewis, the details of that settlement were sealed.
Fast-forward to 2001, and Huey Lewis broke the first rule of Confidential Settlement Club, by talking about it. “The offensive part was not so much that Ray Parker Jr. had ripped this song off, it was kind of symbolic of an industry that wants something — they wanted our wave, and they wanted to buy it,” Lewis said during an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music. “It’s not for sale. In the end, I suppose they were right. I suppose it was for sale, because, basically, they bought it.”
After that episode aired, Parker sued Lewis for breaking the confidentiality agreement, for his “inflammatory and disparaging” comments, and for emotional distress. (Other than Parker acknowledging that “I won,” neither party has discussed the outcome of that lawsuit. Obviously.)
Despite almost 40 years of chaotic vibes around his now-classic song, Parker isn’t bothered by any of it. “First of all, I can’t talk about it because I don’t even know what happened,” he told the Detroit Free-Press last September. “I had the best lawyer in town. He says, ‘Do you want to know what happened?’ I said, ‘Does it have anything to do with my money?’ He said no. I said, ‘Well, then I don’t care.’”
In this week’s Twitch quiz, we have a whole round about music litigation issues like this called “Sue-Sue-Sudio.” Check it out: