There are tons of hit songs over the past years that you may hear and think…. hmmm, where have I heard that before. The most obvious one lately was the smash hit Blurred Lines, by Robin Thicke and Pharrell. Not only were they questioned about copying a Marvin Gaye beat, but they weretaken to court and successfully sued by the Gaye family. This, along with other songs are huge hit songs that ripped off other songs.
Despite the song being criticized for copying another song, Blurred Lines was a massive success and still holds the record for biggest worldwide radio audience in history. There are many other songs that have done this in the past, some with permission, others without. Here are some hit songs that ripped off other songs.
Red Hot Chili Peppers “Dani California”
Dani California and Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” share the exact same beat and chord changes in their verses. When asked about the similarities by Rolling Stone Magazine, Petty stated:
“I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock ’n’ roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry…But I don’t believe in lawsuits much. I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs.”
Moral of this story? If you are going to copy other people’s music make sure you copy Tom Petty’s, or someone else with the same attitude.
Foo Fighters “Something From Nothing”
You know who the Foo Fighters are. They have become one of the most recognizable rock bands over the years. Perhaps that has to do with Nirvana, perhaps good music, maybe a little of both? Either way, when the Foo Fighters released “Something From Nothing” from their “Sonic Highways” album it immediately garners a sense of déjà vu. Why? Anyone familiar with late Rainbow/Black Sabbath singer Ronnie James Dio’s solo band Dio’s debut single “Holy Diver” off the Holy Diver album. If not go ahead and check it out. Sounds like a rip off.
When the Foo Fighters song gets to the pre-chorus riff it sounds like a slightly altered version of the verse riff from Dio’s 1983 classic. Ronnie James Dio (vocals) and Dave Grohl (drums) worked together on the Tenacious D song “Kickpoo” (watch the NSFW movie clip) from the 2006 The Pick of Destiny movie and soundtrack album. Dio and Grohl were even neighbors for a time in Encino, California. Foo Fighters’ borrowing of Dio’s riff seems like more a tribute to the “Pavarotti of heavy metal” than a rip-off. (Except from About.com)
Listen to an audio comparison of Foo Fighters’ “Something From Nothing” and Dio’s “Holy Diver” here.
Nirvana “Come As You Are”
Arguably one of the most popular grunge / rock bands of all time, certainly the most influential. However, even Nirvana has dug into other songs and ripped off something.
Nirvana’s manager at the time, Danny Goldberg, went on record saying that Kurt Cobain was nervous about the release of “Come As You Are” from the “Nevermind” album. Mainly because it was too similar to a Killing Joke song…Killing Joke later did complain about it, but only after the song became a hit. After the Nirvana song was a hit, Killing Joke reportedly threatened to sue Nirvana. Nirvana’s lawyer said the band had never heard of Killing Joke despite the fact that Nirvana had sent Killing Joke Christmas cards in the past. Sounds muddled to me? Rip off? We think so.
Led Zeppelin “Whole Lotta Love”
Led Zeppelin is actually known for ripping others off multiple times. That is until they were finally sued for it and had to settle out of court. Led Zeppelin famously “borrowed” all or parts over a dozen of their favorite blues, rock, and folk artists’ songs without giving them credit. How does such a huge band get away with something like this for so ling? Well, there are a number of reasons.
The Beatles “Come Together”
Unfortunately for The Beatles, Chuck Berry was not as kind as Tom Petty was to the Red Hot Chili Peppers for ripping off his song. Chuck Berry is a litigious musician who successfully sued both The Beach Boys( for “Surfin’ U.S.A.”) and The Beatles (for “Come Together”) for plagiarizing his songs “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “You Can’t Catch Me”.
“Come Together” is admittedly a slowed down version of Berry’s song. John Lennon’s opening lyric, “Here come ol’ flattop, he come groovin’ up slowly” mirrors Berry’s mid-song lyric “Here come a flattop, he was movin’ up with me.” The Beatles settled with Berry out of court. Who knew? The most popular band in music history was ripping someone else off?
Some of these ripped off songs and lyrics are not as obvious as other. Either way you spin it, it seems that even some of the biggest names in music history had to rip off someone else at one time or another.