REM Singer Registers for Copyright of His Dancing

The alternative band REM may have split up, but lead singer Michael Stipe is still making headlines.  Stipe recently registered for copyright protection of his distinctive style of dancing which Stipe has named ‘White Guy Rhythm’ .  He has used this dance for nearly three decades as shown in many REM videos including Losing my Religion and Shiny Happy People.   Stipe’s dancing consists of a variety of seemingly unrelated moves and has been described as spastic, flailing and enigmatic.  One recurrent element of his style is the importance of the elbows and forearms.  They are often held parallel to each other and to the torso.  The elbows point down and the hands held are open as if to suggest he is about to clap.

In his article The Right Moves  Scott Korb reflected on Stipe’s dancing when he wrote,

“Of course, his dancing always struck me as particularly white — making our natural awkwardness intentional and cool”. (10/14/2011 – The New York Times Magazine)

Stipe’s dancing undoubtedly emboldened a generation of white guys to venture onto the dance floor with new-found confidence that they could dance as well as the rock music superstar.


Early origins of Stipe’s dancing can be seen in REM’s 1983 performance of Radio Free Europe in their first televised performance.  At this early point in his career his style had not fully evolved, but the performance does provide hints at what is to come.  Stipe’s copyright will now require that performers who wish to use the White Guy Rhythm dance on stage or in a music video first obtain Stipe’s permission.  Stipe has indicated that any royalties he receives will be donated to Amnesty International.  The dance may still be used without permission in non-professional settings, but custom dictates that they credit Stipe with a sign attached to their clothing.

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