Back in 1981, David Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016) and the members of Queen co-wrote “Under Pressure” that was included on Queen’s album “Hot Space” that was released the following year. It hit the top spot on the charts in the UK, but peaked at the 29th spot in the U.S. The song was a staple of Queen concerts until the band stopped touring in 1986. Even though David Bowie was instrumental in the song’s creation, he chose not to include it in his live performances until 1992 when he sang the song as a duet with Annie Lennox at the tribute concert for Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury (5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991).
It’s never been a secret that American rapper Robert Matthew Van Winkle aka Vanilla Ice sampled the bass line from “Under Pressure” for his hit, “Ice Ice Baby.” The Vanilla Ice song was released on his 1989 debut album “Hooked” and a year later, on his national debut album “To The Extreme.”
Now this was back in the early days of sampling. Legal precedent wasn’t carved in stone yet. Things weren’t playing out very well in most of the industry’s opinion.
Neither David Bowie now Queen were credited as co-writers of the “Ice Ice Baby” and they saw none of the royalties … that is, until the lawsuit was settled. Vanilla Ice argued that he had added a beat between notes and because of that, the two songs were completely different songs. Of course, in later years, he admitted that he wasn’t serious about using that as a defense. Still, the situation was serious enough for Queen and David Bowie to threaten to sue Vanilla Ice for copyright infringement.
At the end of the day, Vanilla Ice thought it was more prudent to settle out of court for an undisclosed sum of money and to give David Bowie and Queen songwriting credits on the “Ice Ice Baby” track. For Vanilla Ice, because “Ice Ice Baby” was making a name for him as a rapper, losing all rights to his song could prove disastrous to his career which is why he opted for the out of court settlement.
So whether you’re a fan of David Bowie or Queen, or a fan of Vanilla Ice, you have to admit that the bass line is catchy with enough punch to carry two songs to the charts. What do you think?