As per a federal lawsuit, singer, rapper, and flutist Lizzo — born Melissa Jefferson — is now being sued by Detroit resident Orlandus Dunning for allegedly recording his performance during a private funeral and using the audio without his permission in her 2016 song “Coconut Oil.”
Recently reported by The Detroit News, Dunning, “an elder in the Church of God In Christ” is suing the chart-topping musician for $750,000 in compensation to cover the “suffered anguish, embarrassment and outrage” he claims to have undergone following the song’s release via Atlantic Records, their subsidiary Nice Life Recording Co., and their owners Warner Music Group — all of which were lumped alongside Lizzo as the defendants in the suit according to the outlet.
Concerning the details of what exactly Dunning’s claims against Lizzo are, the lawsuit says the Grammy winner allegedly used audio pieces of a gospel hymn he sang during a mutually attended funeral of a relative and that Lizzo “recorded this audio without either (Dunning’s) knowledge or consent” before then using it as a sample in the intro and outro of “Coconut Oil” without asking his permission before doing that either.
Pieces of the audio can be heard in the clip below:
According to the suit, even if Lizzo would have asked Dunning for his permission to record the audio beforehand, he wouldn’t have been receptive to the request. As the court document stated, Dunning, “did not and would not have consented to the use of his voice this way because the message in the song is contradictory to his own brand and beliefs as an ordained elder in the Church of God In Christ … organization.”
“When Plaintiff sang the devotional,” the lawsuit noted, “it was at a private funeral and done for the specific purpose of uplifting his family and friends during their time of bereavement.” Additionally, it detailed his point of view further by saying,”(Dunning) had a reasonable expectation of privacy and that his voice would not be heard publicly, as the funeral where he sang was held privately and open only to family and close friends.” The suit also specified that Lizzo “knew or should have known that portraying (Dunning) in such a light would cause him distress based on his position as an Elder in the church.”
As of now, while it is unclear how exactly the meaning of the song was personally offensive to Dunning, we do know that when Lizzo talked about “Coconut Oil” — the title track of her 2016 EP — she mentioned during an interview with Rolling Stone that the song was an “ultimate ode to self-care.”
For the record, this isn’t the first time Lizzo has been sued since she been in the limelight. In November of 2019, she was sued by a Postmates driver for defamation and distress after she’d put the driver on blast via Twitter for not completing her food delivery — despite the driver’s claim that she’d tried to complete the order for over 10 minutes but could get a hold of the singer. More infamously in a very public battle, the singer also went back and forth with two brothers who she sued and then was countersued by for the opening lyrics “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch” of her popular song “Truth Hurts.” Originally, that whole lawsuit battle began when the brother claimed that Lizzo had plagiarized them and taken inspiration from their song “Healthy.” In the end, the case was dismissed last year in August.
While Lizzo hasn’t responded to the latest lawsuit being thrown her way, The Detroit News did mention that her lawyer hadn’t gotten back to them to provide a comment on Dunning’s claims.
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