Pop Music Plagiarism's Worst Offenses: A History

Categories: WTF

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Epic Records
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.


8. Coldplay - "Viva La Vida"

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.

Continue to page two.



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22 comments
Jason Rosenbaum
Jason Rosenbaum

Milli Vanilli was probably the worst instance, mainly because their deception robbed Neneh Cherry of the Best New Artist award for the Grammys.

James Beckemeyer
James Beckemeyer

That's just rock. Hip hop and R&B are so belligerently worse...

Philip Gadala-Maria
Philip Gadala-Maria

Kid rock's sweet home Alabama is a shitty version of Werewolves of London.

Sarah Lindsey
Sarah Lindsey

And almost every pop song in the last 50 years!

Chris Braniff
Chris Braniff

Many other blatant plagiarisms than radiohead creep. It's a chord progression. The songs sound nothing alike. Same with one direction.

brandxco
brandxco

I was thinking about "I Fought the Law and the Law Won" written by Sonny Curtis of the Crickets and popularized by the Bobby Fuller Four and John Cougar Mellencamp's "The Authority Song." Looked it up on Wikipedia and, I guess, Mellencamp acknowledges the connection.

Duke Matlock
Duke Matlock

My Sweet Lord! How could you miss the obvious?

Ronnie Marchlewski
Ronnie Marchlewski

How could you not mention Ice Ice Baby?!?!?! This is the single most famous example of plagiarism.

John Merz
John Merz

How can you leave out rock god Robert Plant stealing squeeze my lemons till the juice runs down my leg. Robert Johnson spun in his grave.

Jeff Allen
Jeff Allen

Not to defend One Direction, but if the G C D chord progression is plagiarism then I think we need to also consider legal action against Steve Miller Band for the Joker.

Matt Jordan
Matt Jordan

Nickelback has copied word for word from the manual "how to be a sucky band!!!"

Genia Ackworth
Genia Ackworth

And when a celeb sues they usually win. I listened to the songs a woman sued MJ for and they were very similar.

Scott Creedon
Scott Creedon

"Nobody has written an original rock song since 1953" Why do I keep reading your page anymore?

Rick Kohn
Rick Kohn

Lost me after the first half-sentence.

Matthew Blankis
Matthew Blankis

I seem to remember that a Sum 41 song was almost a note for note ripoff of "The Scientist" by Coldplay. There was a YouTube vid where the two songs were played at the same time and the music was identical.

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