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Songwriter Sues Guns N' Roses Over 'Don't Cry'

Bobby Martin says song is 'substantially similar' to tune he wrote in 1978.

Evansville Courier & Press

It took nearly nine years for Bobby Martin to hear the Guns N' Roses hit song "Don't Cry."

It took the Princeton, Ind., man just four more weeks to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against the band.

Martin's lawsuit says the song "Don't Cry" (RealAudio excerpt) "contains musical portions identical or substantially similar to the instrumental version" of a song Martin wrote in 1978, titled "Ensename a Amar" (Show Me How To Love), which was included on an album of the same name.

Martin's lawsuit says his album was a #1 hit in Puerto Rico and many Central American and South American countries, as well as in Latino gospel markets in the United States. Martin, 50, filed his federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana at Evansville on June 23. He says he is owed at least $11.5 million in profits from the song, not counting royalties and any future earnings from the song.

Also listed as defendants are Geffen Records and Universal Music Group, both based in California. Guns N' Roses members Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin also are named in the suit.

All but Rose have left the band in recent years. "Don't Cry" was on two 1991 albums by Guns N' Roses, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, the last hit records the band recorded. "Don't Cry" also was released recently on a best-of compilation titled "Guns N' Roses Live Era '87-'93."

Martin said attorneys representing the defendants have begun negotiating a settlement. Martin said he hopes to have a settlement worked out soon. He is represented by Evansville attorneys Gary K. Price and Glenn A. Deig.

Despite the fact that "Don't Cry" garnered major airplay in the United States, Martin said it took him years to hear the song because he listens to a different genre of music.

It wasn't until about two months ago, when Martin was producing a 19-year-old Princeton guitarist — Gabriel Wheatley — that Martin became aware of the song.

Wheatley listened to "Ensename a Amar" and thought he had heard the music in the song before, Martin said. Wheatley later played "Don't Cry" to Martin, who said: "It is my chorus. I've got to see my attorney.

"I've never followed hard rock — I just didn't care for it," he said, noting that he had heard of Guns N' Roses because of their notoriety.

"I thought they were very obnoxious," Martin said. "They haven't had a very good reputation in the industry."

Martin did, however, say he likes the song "Don't Cry."

"I'm very happy with what they did with 'Don't Cry,' " Martin said. "Guns N' Roses did a good job with the song, and I've got to give them credit for that. But I do want to get paid for what is rightfully mine, and I will."

Martin claims that 65 percent of "Don't Cry" contains his work from "Ensename a Amar." He said he'll settle for 50 percent.

"The choruses are identical; the guitar licks and solo start at the same time and end at the same time," said Martin, who noted "the length of the song would be identical" if it wasn't for a long wail by Rose at the end of "Don't Cry."

"The music and the structure are identical," Martin said.

Because the chorus of "Don't Cry" also appeared on the end of another Guns N' Roses song, "November Rain," Martin is also trying to recoup royalties to that song, which he says is 3 percent his. "November Rain" appeared on two Guns N' Roses albums, the live compilation and Use Your Illusion I.

— Rick Davis