22 Songs That Sound More Similar Than Blurred Lines and Got To Give It Up

22songs

The jury messed up. The courts failed us. But what do you expect in a trial arguing “feel” and “vibe.” There is no actual “truth” that is being sought after. No, “and the suspect’s DNA matches perfectly with the DNA found at the crime scene.” Boom! Every criminal prosecutor would no doubt exclaim “boom” silently after a reveal like that.

But there was no “boom” in this case. Yes, the rhythmic elements are similar. Yes the bass lines are similar. But so are the beats of nearly every pop song of the past 5 years. And bass lines? Most funk/ R&B/soul songs have similar phrasing and structure. The melodies in the two songs are quite different. The chord changes are different.

+Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke Will Pay $7.4 Million For Copyright Infringement 

No doubt, Pharrell and Robin Thicke (even though he was “high on Vicodin”) used “Got To Give It Up” as inspiration. But EVERY artist in EVERY studio in the world plays songs in studio as inspiration. That means nothing. Pharrell is now wishing he never added those last minute bottle clanks. Honestly, the bottle clanks are the most similar elements of the songs. Take out the bottle clanks and Pharrell and Thicke are $7.4 million richer.

Here are 22 songs that sound MORE similar than Blurred Lines and Got To Give It Up:

George Harrison – “My Sweet Lord” and The Chiffons – “He’s So Fine”

This went to court and the judge ruled that even though the tunes are nearly identical that Harrison was guilty of only “subconscious plagiarism.” It helps to be a Beatle.

Sam Smith – “Stay With Me” and Tom Petty – “Won’t Back Down”

Now here’s a clear cut case of “subconscious” borrowing. The chorus melodies are nearly identical. But Tom Petty didn’t sue and even said “these things can happen.” Petty was given co-writing credit by Smith.

The Beach Boys – “Surfin’ USA” and Chuck Berry – “Sweet Little Sixteen”

The Beach Boys are not the only artists that have stolen from Chuck Berry. These melodies are indisputable. So similar that Chuck Berry became the (sole) official writer of the music – after the song was released of course without giving Berry a credit. Brian Wilson’s father/manager actually handed the copyright over to Berry’s publishing company.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Dani California” and Tom Petty “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”

Petty said “I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock ‘n’ roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry.”

“Spoonful of Sugar” (from Mary Poppins) and John Phillip Sousa – “El Capitan”

Bet you didn’t know this one!

 

Vanilla Ice – “Ice Ice Baby” and Queen/David Bowie – “Under Pressure”

Vanilla Ice famously tried to point out the one note difference. How many notes were different in Blurred Lines? Oh right. ALL of them.

Ray Parker Jr – Ghostbusters Theme and Huey Lewis – “I Want A New Drug”

Who you gonna call? The Lawyers!

Coldplay – “Viva La Vida” and Joe Satriani – “If I Could Fly”

Cat Stevens and a hoard of others came out of the woodworks to accuse Colplay of ripping them off for this song. In the end, Coldplay and Satriani settled out of court.

John Fogerty – “The Old Man Down The Road” and Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Run Through The Jungle”

This is a case of being sued for copying YOURSELF. Yes, Fogerty’s former publishing company sued him because “This Old Man Down The Road” and “Run Through The Jungle” (which he released with CCR 15 years prior) sounded so similar.

Radiohead – “Creep” and The Hollies – “The Air That I Breathe”

The Hollies co-writers, Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood were eventually given a writing credit on “Creep”

The Strokes – “Last Night” and Tom Petty (again!) – “American Girl”

The Strokes admitted they stole their song from “American Girl.” But Petty’s too cool to sue.

 

The moral of the story is, if you’re going to steal, steal from Tom Petty.

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog, Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

42 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Haha, the Petty part made me laugh.

    You forgot Kookabura (or however it’s spelled) though. How could you…

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    If Edvard Grieg were alive today he be suing the heck out of John Williams; especially in the feel and vibe department.

    Reply
  3. David

    Not sure of the point of these examples, because in many of them (e.g. My Sweet Lord), the copy-ers did end up sharing substantial royalties to the copy-ees..

    As for the Blurred Lines case, there is an interesting commentary here by the Gaye family’s attorney:
    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/marvin-gaye-family-lawyer-how-780743

    In any jury trial the jury tends to be influenced strongly by apparent dishonesty or shiftiness of the witnesses, and there was plenty of that in the Williams/Thicke testimony. Also, I had forgotten that Williams and Thicke themselves started the action by seeking a pre-emptive declaration that they had *not* infringed Gaye’s copyright. So a lot of public comment, implying that the Gaye family are some kind of copyright ‘trolls’, is wide of the mark.

    Reply
  4. Butch Ross

    I think George Harrison shoul have gotten a pass on “My Sweet Lord,” that album was produced by Phil Spector! You’d think at some point Phil should have said, “Uh George… this song sounds pretty familiar”dn

    Reply
  5. Bandit

    The jury didn’t mess up.

    They were using the “truthiness” standard.

    Going with their gut despite what they were instructed by the judge to deliberate on.

    Reply
  6. Bass

    Simple solution to this problem: We need to create more notes. If there were more notes on the scale than 8, thousands of new songs could be written!

    (/tongue in cheek)

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    to see far you must stand on the shoulders of giants…

    petty and some of us understand this and dont mind when others use our already published and released property for inspiration…

    unfortunately this and a few other businesses would rather take an axe to our legs as opposed to standing on our shoulders, perhaps hoping we will instead to choose to slither with them…

    anyways, theres only so many ways to count to ten, we all have listened and studied to so much music over the years, that these things are bound to happen, not to mention, once something is published and released, its free game to use for motivation and inspiration, of course, too many people are out there stealing unfinished, unreleased and unpublished property and using that as inspiration and motivation, and then releasing to market and attacking whos property they stole in a myriad of ways thus chopping our legs, binding our arms behind our back and taking the shirt off our back, and then bringing in the jackhammer and backhoe and dynamite and just taking out a few square blocks of road in front of us, so its all a bit bunged up really…

    some of them are blatant rip jobs, rip van roble and the Queen case for instance…

    Reply
  8. Mike

    Chuck Berry, Chuck Berry you wrote the only original song
    Some white boys stole it we all still sing along
    Chuck Berry sing to us one more time
    Before Fred Bisquit freezes everybody’s mind

    Dig down dig down
    The Beatles used up all there was to be found

    “Dig down”- bobby bare, jr.

    Reply
  9. Rick Mantree

    Hi,

    I have never ever stolen anybody’s song. However, I once met a RCA Record Producer and publisher who told me that a good publisher friend of his used take the best songs he received, put new lyrics on them and tough luck to the songwriter if the songwriter, or songwriters, couldn’t afford a lawyer to sue him. Extremely few did actually sue!

    I live in Quebec city Canada and know of one case where a publisher not only stole the melody and lyrics but even stole the musical arrangement, chords and all. He got sued and the songwriter won and put money aside to help others like himself.

    What needs to be done is the creation of an on-line blacklist of Publishers (and others) that have been found guilty, more than once, of stealing a song. Basically, if you can’t afford to sue you are screwed.

    How about a fund where songwriters put in say, 5$ to 10$, in the fund and have someone like Ari manage the fund? Songwriters who win their lawsuits would be required, after lawyer expenses, to contribute 10% of their “winnings” to the fund.

    It would make the playing field more fair and scare the shit out of some dishonest publishers, record producers and songwriters.

    A SOCAN member here in CANADA once said : “You should be proud that someone found your song good enough to steal it.” That gives you an idea of the screwed up mentality in the music buisness. I just hope someone goes forward with my suggestion.

    Take care everyone (except for those who have ripped off a melody or lyrics of another songwriter).
    Rick Mantree

    Reply
  10. epiphany

    You forgot to mention the band Spirit’s song ‘Taurus’ beginning which sounds exactly like Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ at the start. I love Led Zeppelin so much , but I think Spirit did sue them over it.

    Reply
  11. MNLAKER

    You also forgot Lady Gaga’s “Do What You Want” and Taylor Swifts – Style.

    Reply
  12. JeffC

    Robin who?
    The “preemptive” lawsuit was the dumbest thing I’ve seen for a LONG time.

    Reply
  13. Bobby M

    I gambled and won. I recorded a song in 1966. Part of the recording was sampled by Christina Aguilera producers when they released “Ain’t No Other Man”; unconsciously, I presume. I discovered it after it was released, sued, and was awarded 25% of composition and publishing rights. Sometimes it pays to claim what is rightfully yours. Just sayin’

    Reply
  14. DefendingGeorge

    The MSL – He’s So FIne comparison is complete BS, as are a few others here. 4-5 guitars playing F#m-Bmaj sounds nothing like Doo lang doo lang.
    There’s eventually going to be some form of crossover when the majority of rock/pop/et at is based around a 1-4-5 and major, relative minor key structure…

    Reply
  15. Guy Hobbs

    That’s interesting Rick Mantree. I think part of the problem is that the money nowadays is in the songwriting, but not every singer is a good songwriter. So they end up “borrowing” the efforts of others.

    I had an experience where I wrote a lyric ( based on my personal experience when working on a Russian cruise ship) many years ago, about impossible love between a Western man and a Communist girl. I called it “Natasha” and the hook was “Natasha the freedom you’ll never know”. I unknowingly sent this to a top songwriting duo (I thought it was an independent publisher), looking for a composer to co-write with – 4 months later they wrote a song about impossible love between a Western man and a Communist girl called “Nikita”, with the hook “Nikita you’ll never know”. There were many other similarities. I calculated that two thirds of their chorus can be found in mine.

    It took me 10 years to try and find a way to take them on legally in a way that I could afford. Eventually a US lawyer agreed to help on a percentage basis, but he was not a copyright specialist, and we were crushed by the same copyright firm that won the “She’s so fine / my sweet lord” case mentioned above.

    I didn’t stand a chance. Much of my evidence (3 expert witnesses agreeing it was copied) was never even submitted – in the end we couldn’t even get the case into court.

    In the US the losers in a case are not usually liable for the other sides legal fees, as they are in the UK. This is reassuring … except, it was only when I was well into the legal battle that I was informed that an exception was made for copyright cases and that you ARE liable for the other sides legal costs. The reason given was that people that initiate copyright cases have money. Yeah, right !

    This is the kind of madness you are faced with in a copyright case. The small guys don’t stand a chance. So the big guys, those with money, can act as bullies.

    There needs to be a better way of doing things. What I needed was a facility where all parties could sit around a table for a day, with a skilled and qualified mediator assessing the situation and all the facts, and making a fair recommendation. We would have sorted the matter out in a day.

    The situation as it is now is a legal game where the person with the biggest pockets will probably win. The potential to stretch the case and appeals out for ever is huge. Even the way the various courts in the US interpret copyright law are totally different. I regrettably ended up in the 7th Circuit where a bad precedent had been set in a case a year earlier, which basically tied my hands. With my case now reinforcing that precedent, I would actually say that it is now impossible to win a copyright infringement case in the 7th Circuit. Infringers can use those 2 bad precedents and you just can’t beat the argument. That is the sort of madness you face when you try and seek justice.

    Someone like ASCAP needs to partner with an experienced copyright legal practitioner and create a mediation facility where these matters can be sorted out quickly, cheaply, and fairly.

    The only people benefiting from the present system are the law firms.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      I think the key takeaway here is NEVER admit being influenced by anyone.

      Reply
  16. Al Dobson

    I can think of three that are alike. La Bamba – Ritchie Valens, Twist and Shout – by many bands, and What I Like About You – The Romantics. I think the whole thing with the Blurred Lines lawsuit is a load of crap and sets a dangerous precedent.

    Reply
  17. carol

    I think this may be a bad precedent. As composers we are all influenced or motivated by older songs. I think they should try to appeal the ruling.

    Reply
  18. composer of music

    I must applaude the jury’s decision. As a writer/composer to the music of many of my former bands’ compositions, i feel its about time that “arrangements” (music) are recognized as being an important part of the whole composition, especially if there is no work for hire. A song by definition is acapella…. without a work for hire, everyone who contributes to a composition is a writer on it. Thats why session players are paid to to write their music which is to be used as a componant of the compositiin, perform it, and record it… to never see a dime afterwards if it sells.

    So songwriters, put your guitar or piano down and do it acapella. That is a song. However, if acapella doesnt get it done, put some instrumentation to it. Find a band to write “your music”. Its theirs too. They created it, you created it. Jointly. Hence joint authorship. …

    Reply
  19. Joe Iafrate

    Don’t forget that major similarity between Sarah McLachlans song “You Want Me 2” and Gary Jules arrangement of the Tears For Fears song “Mad World”

    Reply
  20. Xavier

    Given the blurred lines case, I wonder if this opened/opens up the Gaye estate to scrutiny over if all content attributed to Gaye (estate) is truly his to attribute. It’s entertaining when the now looks back on the past and if the evidence is there, call out shared incidents if present. As for juries, were they truly peers, students and practitioners of the art? One day, hopefully copyright, patents, and trademarks become no battlefield.

    Reply
  21. Ann, on a moose

    Listen to the openings to “My Curse” by Killswitch Engage and “Mariana’s Trench” by August Burns Red. If that doesn’t sound similar, I don’t know what does. I’ve been playing them both on loop during work today. Both amazing tracks.

    Reply

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