Love Is a Wonderful Thing

Album: Time, Love & Tenderness (1991)
Charted: 23 4

Songfacts®:

  • Michael Bolton's 1989 album Soul Provider made him one of the most popular recording artists and songwriters of the era; he was so sought after for his contemporary sound that even Bob Dylan requested a collaboration (which resulted in the song "Steel Bars"). Bolton augmented his original songs with covers of soul classics - he had hits with "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" and "Georgia On My Mind."

    Love was a common theme for Bolton, and this upbeat tune seems right in line with his songwriting style, but there was also a 1966 song by The Isley Brothers called "Love Is A Wonderful Thing." The Isleys sued Bolton in 1991 shortly after the song was released, and the subsequent judgment in 1994 was the biggest-ever award in a music plagiarism case: $5.4 million. The sum was ascertained by estimating sales of the song and the album, the court giving The Isley Brothers 66 percent of projected single sales and 28 percent of album profits.

    Bolton, a well-known fan of soul music - claimed he had never heard the Isley Brothers song, which didn't appear on any of their studio albums and made just #110 when it was released as a single. He appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court, enlisting celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz to plead his case. The appeal was rejected without comment.

    Members of the jury who heard the case must not have been Michael Bolton fans - the only glaring similarity between the two songs is the title; the lyrics are completely different, as is the melody. The judgment in the case was split between Bolton ($932,924), his co-writer Andrew Goldmark ($220,785), Sony Music ($4.2 million) and their music-publishing companies ($75,900).
  • Bolton takes a lot of pride in this song and was devastated by the verdict against him. "It will always be my song," he told Billboard in the aftermath. "It's a song I created with Andy Goldmark word-for-word, note-for-note, I'm proud of the song and it's part of me. It's a travesty that I'll have to learn to live with."

    Bolton kept the song in his live set.

Comments: 1

  • Keely from FlThe similarities in both the melody and lyrics of both versions of the song are quite obvious upon listening, and even the musicologist Bolton brought in to testify in his defense admitted that there were similarities. At the trial, Michael Bolton produced a work tape to prove that he created the song independently, but on the tape Bolton was heard saying the song sounded familiar and he wondered whether it was Marvin Gaye's "Some Kind of Wonderful." He also claimed that the Isleys' version of the song was too obscure and he had never heard it, although Ronald Isley testified that when he and Bolton met, Bolton said he was a big fan and "I have all your stuff." In addition, several prominent disk jockeys who broadcasted in Bolton's listening area were brought in to testify about the frequency with which they played the Isley Brothers' version of the song. The ruling was that even if the influence was subconscious, there was a strong likelihood that it existed, and subsequent appeals upheld the judgment.
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