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Watch: David Byrne covers Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend”

on February 26, 2014, 9:34am

On Tuesday night, an all-star lineup of artists including David Byrne, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, Cake’s John McCrea, Tift Merritt, and Marc Ribot took the stage at NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge. The concert came in support of Content Creators Coalition-NYC, a group currently petitioning congress for pay-for-play radio royalties for artists. (In short, since Aretha Franklin didn’t write “Respect”, she never sees a penny from radio play. Composers get paid, but artists don’t.)

For his part, Byrne donned his favorite pair of overalls and covered the comedy hip-hop classic “Just a Friend” by Biz Markie. So, why would a Talking Head cover the Clown Prince of Hip-Hop? To lend example of the convoluted pay structure of radio play.

“Mr. Markie didn’t write that tune (although he did probably write the rap),” Byrne explained in his e-newsletter. “The drum and keyboard loop was lifted from a Freddie Scott recording, but the song was written by Gamble and Huff, the great songwriting team that wrote for The O’Jays and The Spinners. So chances are Biz Markie didn’t see any royalties from all the radio play that song got.”

Byrne may not be the first guy you’d think of to cover a track like “Just a Friend”, but at least he didn’t bastardize it for a paycheck like Snoop Dogg did. Replay the performance below.

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