Pop Music Plagiarism's Worst Offenses: A History
By Luke Winkie
Nobody has written an original rock song since 1953, and the entire music industry is founded on exchanging blurry photocopies of other people's work. Sure, some art is outright plagiarism, but even when it's in a gray area, it's an opportunity for cash. Case in point: Australian psych band Tame Impala is currently fielding accusations that its song "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" rips off Argentinian singer Pablo Ruiz's "Océano." This is a song that the members of the band have likely never, ever heard. We'll see if their lawyer can make that case.
Over the years, music-plagiarism accusations have hit some of pop music's most popular artists. Here are eight of the highest-profile cases.
The Case: Do you hate Coldplay? Of course you do! Do you hate Coldplay as much as Joe Satriani? That's a tough one, isn't it? Satriani claimed that those watery pipes of synth on "Viva la Vida" were directly taken from his winding guitar melodrama "If I Could Fly." If you have been accused of stealing music from Joe Satriani, that should cause you to rethink your entire songwriting philosophy.
What Happened: Nothing, really. The case was thrown out after both parties potentially agreed to a settlement. Somewhere in America, Joe Satriani is spending Chris Martin's money.7. Robin Thicke - "Blurred Lines"
The Case: Perhaps you remember this one? Robin Thicke made an absurdly popular pop song, which graciously borrowed from a classic Marvin Gaye banger from years past. The Gaye Estate saw this as stealing more than a tribute, and it began to launch legal proceedings directly at EMI. Robin Thicke threw his hands up and said something to the effect of, "Hey man! Can't we all just get along?"
What Happened: This case is still tied up in court, but it likely ends with Robin Thicke giving a lot of money to Marvin Gaye's kids.6. Led Zeppelin - "Whole Lotta Love"
The Case: Most Led Zeppelin riffs are borrowed from some unearthed blues records and repurposed for much louder, much more profitable ends. But when one of your most popular songs ever lifts lyrics from a Willie Dixon song, well, people will start to notice. Especially when yours is called "Whole Lotta Love," and his is "You Need Love."
What Happened: In what has become something of a tradition for Led Zeppelin, they settled outside of court with Dixon's camp and added him as a co-writer. Seriously, go look at the inside insert of your latest Zeppelin reissue, and you'll see a lot of names you don't recognize.5. Avril Lavigne - "Girlfriend"
The Case: Avril Lavigne and Dr. Luke wrote a song called "Girlfriend," clearly meant as an homage a power-pop song called "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." Unfortunately, no clearance was officially given, and when you copy music this ferociously without officially sampling, a bunch of has-beens like the Rubinoos smell blood in the water.
What Happened: Avril Lavigne married Chad Kroeger, but not before paying out an undisclosed settlement to a bunch of old men with lawyers.
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