Robin Thicke’s Hit Benefits Classical Composer’s ‘Blurred Lines’
What happens when fans blur lines while googling song titles
Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” has caught a lot of flack for the things that it’s exposed: 1) casual lyrical misogyny; 2) those three nice ladies’ bosoms; and 3) the world to Miley Cyrus’ infamous MTV VMA gyrations. But one 86-year-old Canadian classical composer who’s never heard the track, seen either version of the video, or watched a starlet twerk on Mona Lisa’s shoulder has every reason to be thankful — Thicke’s song is sending new listeners his way.
You see, John Beckwith has his very own “Blurred Lines,” a slow and somber 10-minute duet for harpsichord and violin that he wrote in 1997, and which appears on a 2010 multi-composer compilation celebrating his keyboard of choice dubbed Jalsaghar. As The Guardian notes, a recording and licensing manager for archive/label Canadian Music Centre was the first to discover that something out-of-the-ordinary was afoot.
“I was having a look at the numbers and [Beckwith’s song received] over 4,000 streams in one month,” said Allegra Young in an interview with Public Radio International’s The World. “It’s a great disc, but I was wondering why [everyone was listening to] the same track.” At which point listeners of the show must have wondered if she’d been living under a rock. Or, simply, working at the CMC.
Beckwith weighed in by email and admitted he hadn’t heard the version of “Blurred Lines” recorded by Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I., though, “I’m told the lyrics are ‘bawdy.” He pointed out that while his own song doesn’t have any words at all, it does feature some wicked “quarter-tone glides,” and was written in an impassioned bout of inspiration after he heard “some recordings from the Swedish hardanger fiddle repertoire.”
“Beckwith is one of the composers who really helped to define what Canadian music is today,” said Young. By that we can only assume she means to say he was a seminal member of the greater Broken Social Scene family and will be appearing on the next Arcade Fire album. Influential though the composer may be, he might consider getting in touch with the Marvin Gaye estate to see if an alliance can be made.