Earworm Weekly – “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.

No, I haven't seen the movie yet. Don't ask me why. I hear you all saying that it's fun and feminist and all that good stuff, but it just hasn't happened yet. Chalk it up to the contrarian impulse. One too many exhortations of “you have to go see it or the dudebros will win!” and I just can't. That hasn't stopped me from gaining a new and entirely predictable earworm this week, though.

[jump] https://youtu.be/Fe93CLbHjxQ

While the Ghostbusters movie reboot concept is perfectly sound as long as you're not a lady-hating GamerGater, I don't know why they bothered even trying to remake the theme song – or if they did, why they didn't hire a woman to do it. (As much as I love Missy Elliott, a mere rap interlude does not count.) C'mon. Demi Lovato, maybe? Pink? Meghan Trainor? Babymetal? Work with me here.

Ray Parker Jr. conceived of the cheesy-spooky synth-and-drum original as a commercial jingle for the fictional Ghostbusters business, so of course it works just as well as an advertisement for the movie as a whole – and as the kind of tune you'll have in your head even 30-odd years later. Kind of how I will never, ever be able to forget the phone number of Empire Today Carpets, thanks to a childhood spent watching Cubs games on WGN.

Outside of “Ghostbusters,” Parker is best-known as a veteran R&B session player. He played guitar on Stevie Wonder's Talking Book and also worked with Barry White, Marvin Gaye, and Rufus and Chaka Khan, among many others. Start delving into his credits and you'll find you might have heard his licks on everything from Honey Cone's “Want Ads” to Donna Summer's “She Works Hard for the Money” to Boz Scaggs' “Hell to Pay.”

Parker had only middling success as a solo artist; “Ghostbusters” marked the peak of his career. The single spent three weeks on the charts in the summer of 1984 and was nominated for a Best Original Song Grammy; Parker lost to his old friend Stevie Wonder for (the terrible) “I Just Called To Say I Love You.”

In the meantime, Huey Lewis of all people sued Parker for plagiarism, accusing him of lifting the theme of Ghostbusters from Lewis and The News' “I Want a New Drug.” Apparently nobody denies at this point that record executives played Parker “I Want a New Drug” and asked for something that sounded similar; you'll have to decide for yourself whether the result violates either the law and/or the moral principle, as Lewis and Parker settled out of court, complete with gag order. When Lewis violated that order in 2001 for a VH1 Behind the Music special, Parker apparently filed a countersuit, but the details of that case's conclusion, if any, have yet to be released. Then again, considering that Lewis filed his original suit in 1984 and it wasn't concluded until 1995, maybe we just need to be patient.

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