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Rocker Evan Dando takes on GM

June 8, 2009 |  2:12 pm

It’s a shame, really.

Evan Dando, the founder of the fleetingly popular alt-rock band the Lemonheads, is suing General Motors over what the musician claims is the unauthorized copying of one of his songs for two car ads.

Evan.Dando According to the Associated Press, Dando filed the suit in federal court in Los Angeles last week. He is seeking damages and a slice of the profits from the 2008 ad campaigns for GM’s Buick and Chevrolet brands, which the suit claims violates Dando’s copyright on the Lemonheads’ 1992 song “It’s a Shame About Ray.”

GM had no comment today on the suit.

The Lemonheads enjoyed considerable success in the early to mid-1990s with songs such as “Ray,” “Into Your Arms" and a cover of the Simon and Garfunkel classic, “Mrs. Robinson.” Dando continues to record and perform, but has never regained the popularity he and his band enjoyed in its heyday.

There have been several instances of musicians successfully suing companies for using melodies and/or voices that too closely mimic their own work.

In one well-known case, frog-voiced troubadour Tom Waits won a $2.5 million judgment in 1992 against  Frito-Lay after successfully arguing that the chip maker used another singer to impersonate Waits in a Doritos ad. Waits later won a similar lawsuit in Germany against automaker Adam Opel, a division of GM that is in the process of being sold off as part of General Motors’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

Check out the Chevy ad above and a live recording of "Ray" here (the best line is in the intro when Dando tells the audience: “I just woke up”).

-- Martin Zimmerman

Photo of Evan Dando by Los Angeles Times