Rick Astley is suing rapper Yung Gravy for using an alleged impersonation of his voice on a recent single.
The singer's 1987 worldwide hit Never Gonna Give You Up is interpolated in Yung Gravy's song Betty (Get Money). The song features an alleged imitation of Astley's vocals, something the singer said had not been agreed.
The lawsuit claims that Astley's distinctive voice is a resource that needs to be carefully managed. Yung Gravy has not yet commented.
The rapper and his team allegedly cleared the use of the underlying musical composition of Never Gonna Give You Up, which was written by Stock Aitken Waterman. This allowed them to recreate music and lyrics from the original song for their own track, a process known as interpolating.
However, Astley's lawyers said: "A license to use the original underlying musical composition does not authorise the stealing of the artist's voice in the original recording." Lawyers for Astley say the alleged impersonation violated his right to publicity, by mimicking the distinctive voice he used in the song.
The legal papers claim Yung Gravy and his producers, including Dillon Francis, "conspired to include a deliberate and nearly indistinguishable imitation of Mr Astley's voice throughout the song". This was done, the lawsuit alleges, "in an effort to capitalise off of the immense popularity and goodwill of Mr Astley".
Astley is also suing Nick Seeley (also known as Popnick), the alleged vocal impersonator. The legal action was filed in Los Angeles on Thursday and first reported by Deadline.
Representatives for Astley in the UK confirmed: "There was a case filed in a US court of law by a firm representing Rick." The lawyers added that Astley was extremely protective over his name, image, and likeness, meaning the unauthorised use of the similar-sounding voice had caused him great damage.
The legal documents also claim Astley had been looking for a way to incorporate his voice in a future project in collaboration with another artist, a project that he says is now ruined. It has not been confirmed how much money Astley is suing for, however Deadline has described it as a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
Yung Gravy (real name Matthew Raymond Hauri) appeared to acknowledge the use of the impersonator in an interview with Billboard last August.
The 26-year-old said: "We basically remade the whole song. Had a different singer and instruments, but it was all really close because it makes it easier legally."
Never Gonna Give You Up was a worldwide number one hit upon its release and has enjoyed significant cultural impact since. It was written and produced by Stock Aitken Waterman, the trio responsible for several other classic hits from the same era by artists such as Kylie Minogue and Dead or Alive.
Never Gonna Give You Up is the subject of an internet meme known as "rickrolling" - whereby unsuspecting users are redirected to the song's music video when they click on misleading links.
The song has been covered on many occasions over the years by acts including rock group Smash Mouth, US singer Barry Manilow and British boyband 911.
The track has also been interpolated several times - Danish dance artist Calvin attracted more than 23 million Spotify streams to his 2016 re-imagining of the song, titled Give U Up.
Betty (Get Money) is Yung Gravy's most successful track to date, reaching gold status in the US, equating to 500,000 sales. The song and its accompanying video were released in June 2022.