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South African says Elton John and his lyricist stole words to 1980 song

Published: Monday, April 30, 2012 9:35 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO (MCT) — More than a quarter century after Elton John’s “Nikita” told the tale of a star-crossed Cold War romance, a South African is alleging in a federal lawsuit filed in Chicago that the singer and his collaborator stole the lyrics.

Guy Hobbs, described in the suit as an award-winning freelance photojournalist, said he wrote the lyrics to “Natasha” while he worked on a Russian cruise ship in 1982 and became romantically involved with a Russian waitress during the height of the Cold War.

According to the lawsuit, Hobbs registered his copyright of “Natasha,” sought without success to find a music composer and in 1984 forwarded the lyrics to several music publishers, including Big Pig Music Ltd. Hobbs said he was unaware of Big Pig’s ties to Elton John at the time.

Hobbs returned to his career as a photojournalist, spending the ensuing years in Africa before settling in Cape Town. In 2001 he came across the lyrics of “Nikita” in a song book for the first time and was shocked by the many similarities with “Natasha,” according to the suit.

The suit alleged John and Bernie Taupin, a lyricist and longtime John collaborator, copied “substantial, original portions” of “Natasha.”

In a telephone interview, Daniel Voelker, Hobbs’ Chicago attorney, said numerous attempts over the last decade to reach a settlement with John and Taupin went unanswered, so he decided to sue.

“(Hobbs) even had a musicologist take a look at the two sets of lyrics who said the two were far too close to be a product of chance,” said Voelker, who filed a similar lawsuit against the band Poison last October.

Elton John’s publicist didn’t return calls for comment, but a representative for John and Taupin told the New York Post that the suit was without merit and questioned Hobbs’ motives by waiting more than 25 years to file the lawsuit.

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