Six Artists Accused of Plagiarism!
I think there’s one thing we CAN all agree on: there are only twelve notes in the musical scale. Though there’s seemingly endless ways to arrange them in a unique fashion-- there’s bound to be overlap from time to time. However, sometimes the overlap is a little too uncanny. When Katy Perry released her single “Roar” in August, it was immediately noted how eerily similar the track was to the Sara Bareilles song “Brave” (which was co-written by Jack Antonoff from the band .fun). Perry and her co-writers (Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, and Cirkut) have remained mostly mum on the subject, while Bareilles is obviously pleased as punch to have a sudden burst of attention lavished on her song, which according to Wikipedia was recorded in 2011 though not released until this year, thus (allegedly) having the honor of being the “original.” This kind of thing seems to happen a lot in the pop world, where football sized teams of songwriters get their paws all over a tune—but guess what? It also happens in the world of rock.
Today in Andy’s Corner, we’re looking at some rock stars who got the smack down for plagiarism and saw some form of legal action as a result. Typically, artists reach an out-of-court settlement to resolve plagiarism issues—sometimes paying a lump sum OR adding the plaintiff to the song’s credits. Sometimes it's an accident, sometimes it's intentional-- but it's always messy. Listen below and tell us what you think in the comments!
Joe Satriani v. Coldplay
Satch sued the lads in Coldplay in 2008 for lifting “substantial original portions” of his song “If I Could Fly” for use in their hit “Vida La Vida.” The matter was settled out of court in an undisclosed agreement between both parties in which Coldplay did not have to admit any wrongdoing.
Hollies v. Radiohead
Depending on which corner of the internet you are reading, Radiohead either stole this progression and got caught OR shared writing credits straight from the start. In any case, the verses for “Creep” are lifted directly from the classic Hollies tune “The Air That I Breathe,”meaning that the Hollies’ Mike Hazelwood and Albert Hammond (father of the Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr) now share writing credits with Thom Yorke on the tune.
Willie Dixon v. Led Zeppelin
Though there’s no question about Zep’s talent or abilities to write amazing music, they did get pinched back in the day for their classic hit “Whole Lotta Love” having perhaps a little too much in common with Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love,” which was recorded by Muddy Waters. The matter was settled in ’85, out of court but in Dixon’s favor.
Chuck Berry v. THE WORLD!!!!
Berry went after not one but two huge bands: the Beach Boys AND the Beatles. The Beach Boys’ first major hit “Surfin’ in the USA” was purportedly plagiarized from Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen.” The lawsuit in this case granted Berry writing credit and royalties from the record. Meanwhile, Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” is undeniably the basis for the melody of the verses in “Come Together,” the legal wrangling over which resulted in John Lennon agreeing to record a few songs owned by music publisher Morris Levy and another messy lawsuit between Levy and Lennon. Moral of the story? Don’t mess with Chuck Berry.
The Song Catalog of John Fogerty v. John Fogerty
Of course, everyone’s favorite plagiarism story involves that one time that John Fogerty got sued by Creedence Clearwater Revival’s management because after he left CCR, Fogerty’s solo songs sounded too much like… John Fogerty! You can’t make this stuff up. Fogerty won the lawsuit but had a little trouble on his hands in the form of a defamation charge after he wrote a song about the manager who sued him. Good for you, John—small price to pay for a little deserved finger-wagging.