Turns Out Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ Was Lifted from a 1972 Song by The Hollies

Lana Del Rey vs. Radiohead, or Lana Del Rey vs. The Hollies?
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Last week, we found out that Radiohead was suing Lana Del Rey over allegedly plagiarizing their classic song, ‘Creep’.  Now, it turns out that ‘Creep’ itself might be a total rip-off of a song from the early 1970s.

If you’re just tuning in, welcome to the latest copyright face-off in the music industry.  This time, Radiohead has accused Lana Del Rey of stealing their song, ‘Creep,’ on her recently-released ‘Get Free’.  The track is from Del Rey’s latest album, Lust for Life.

I’m not a musicologist, though Lana Del Rey’s track sounds pretty similar to ‘Creep’.  Actually, it seems almost like a carbon-copy in certain sections.  There’s enough commonality that Radiohead is now aggressively threatening a lawsuit.

Take a listen to the two tracks.

First, here’s ‘Creep’:

And here’s Lana del Rey’s just-released ‘Get Free’:

Lana del Rey responded to Radiohead’s attorneys and told them that ‘Creep’ wasn’t an inspiration for ‘Get Free’ (though of course she’s familiar with the iconic song).

But here’s where copyright cases can get tricky.  Even if Lana Del Rey wasn’t consciously thinking about ‘Creep’ while writing ‘Get Free,’ she could still be liable for infringement.  That’s exactly what happened to George Harrison, who was found guilty of plagiarizing the Chiffons’ ‘He’s So Fine,’ even though he wasn’t thinking of the song when he wrote, ‘My Sweet Lord’.

But Harrison admitted that the song might have been dancing in his subconsciousness when he wrote ‘My Sweet Lord’.  Accordingly, he lost the copyright case, leaving a questionable precedent in its wake.  That has given pitbull lawyers all the ammunition they need to chase down supposed copyright violations — though this claim isn’t so far-fetched.

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Accordingly, Lana Del Rey offered to hand Radiohead 40% of her publishing on ‘Get Free,’ just to settle the matter.  But Radiohead refused that offer, which means the pair will be squaring off in court.

But who’s the real plagiarist, anyway?

Maybe the answer is Radiohead.  Take a listen to this track from the Hollies, recorded in 1972 (the track subsequently became a hit in 1974).

Now, take another listen to ‘Creep’.

We’re not the first to see the similarity.

In fact, Radiohead was originally threatened with an aggressive lawsuit from Hollies authors Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood.  That was back in the 90s.

The result?  Both Hammond and Hazlewood received a writer’s credit on ‘Creep’.  Which means they earn a percentage of every publishing dollar generated by ‘Creep’ (and that’s a lot of dollars).

Technically, an out-of-court settlement doesn’t mean that Radiohead is guilty.  But oftentimes, a settlement is forged to quickly resolve a matter and avoid a damning judgment.  Basically, Radiohead was pushed into a corner — and given the similarity between ‘Creep’ and ‘The Air That I Breathe,’ there’s a strong chance it was blatantly copied.

All of which raises the question: should the Hollies be suing Lana Del Rey instead of Radiohead?  Indeed, maybe Radiohead shouldn’t be suing at all — especially since it’s completely unclear if they actually wrote ‘Creep’ in the first place.

27 Responses

  1. lola_m

    Yeppers, they all used the same sequence of 4 chords (G B C Cm, or wherever transposed). Even if you play a waltz using this harmony it would sound like Creep.

    • draeger

      can’t copyright a chord progression – good luck to Lana

    • dude with a guitar :P

      G Bm C Cm ive wrote a song dyou wanna sue me? lmfao how many songs follow this chord progression? What a dumb ass load of bullshit all 4 money fu all!!!! oh yeah n PEACE

      • SteveyG

        Except you got the chord progression wrong ! The second chord is b MAJOR not minor as you have written …. Beethoven’s 5th in C MAJOR is a totally different beast!

  2. Mr. Lucas Brice

    “Creep”and “The Air That I Breathe” are similar. “Get Free”and “Creep” are practically identical.

      • SteveyG

        This this comment exactly!!!! Please don’t sue me for using KJAM’s words !

    • Reita

      Agree- the verse is exact. I disagree that Radiohead copied “The Air That I Breathe” .. there is a chord progression in the verse that is similar- the chorus is diff. That was a stretch and it seems they just did not have good representation in court. I could have won that for them! Lana’s verse is a direct rip off.

  3. draeger

    this is like the Led Zep and Spirit lawsuit – a frivolous lawsuit based on a severe lack of understanding music theory – the RH and LdR songs use chord progressions and a melodic rhythm that share certain stylistic attributes because the progression tends to suggest it based on prior usage – but plagiarism? not to my ear.

  4. Anon

    First of all, The Hollies didn’t write “The Air That I Breathe”. It was written by songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood. And secondly, they successfully sued Radiohead for the song Creep, receiving a monetary settlement along with co-songwriting credit.

    • Anonymous

      They settled out of court. That doesn’t always constitute a win. Lana del ray will lose. Although, Radiohead, don’t you have enough money?

  5. Bunsen

    The verse is obviously nearly identical, but the chorus is not. 40% sounds reasonable, or maybe settle on 60%. But suing for 100% seems a bit greedy to me… The lawyers win.

  6. Weezy

    Ah, intellectual property.

    Sometimes I think intellectual property is not property at all.

  7. Anonimous

    there’s a big difference between creep and the air that i breathe. The melodies are completely different, and it’s just the chord progression that’s spot on. But, how many songs were written using exactly the same chord progressions?

    on the other hand, the melody of Lana’s song follows Creep almost note by note and, most importantly, uses exactly the same unusual flourishes in exactly the same places. It’s a copy, and I cannot understand how Lana had the guts to publish something that so blatantly screams ‘what the hell am I doing here’.

    I mean, I am no famous songwriter, but i have a small collection of songs that i had to throw away because somebody pointed to me they sounded very similar to songs I had never heard before. It’s not about not conciously copying something, it’s about making it so you cannot be accused of copying anybody.

    If I had never heard bohemian rhapsody and by chance came across the same song while writing, somebody would point to me: look, this has been done before, only much better and, by the way, you cannot sing and your guitar playing sucks. And they would be right.

    • Another dude and guitar

      Very well said 🙂

      And it’s pretty much inconceivable that not Lana nor anyone else involved with the project could recognize the sound of one of the most popular songs in the last 30 years while they wrote, rehearsed, played, recorded, and mixed it.

      Also I’m suprised there was no mention in this article or comments of her blatant rip off of Neil Young (“Out of the blue, into the black”) during the non-creepy section of the song.
      Or wait…was she “inspired” by Neil..?
      Was that just… sampling? Quoting?
      I imagine that part sealed the deal for Thom.

  8. Justin Thyme

    creep has about 6 seconds that sounds like “air that I breathe” Lana has a whole song that sounds like creep

  9. Trully

    Reading the News (App) on my iPad — from WIRED about (Facebook) Messenger, which directed me to the Trailer for “The Social Network” which (I FRIGGING LOVE THAT MOVIE) and the theme song is “Creep” by Radiohead. As I was singing to myself, all of a sudden it hit me. That sounds like “something, I breathe in the air, something, by, I think “The Bee Gees (?)”, or sumptin’. So, I somewhat remembered the title, or part of the lyrics to the song in question. Googled it, and it led me to the Hollies singing “The Air That I Breathe” and I thought, holy frick (I actually said f#ck) they are so frigging similar, which took me to this article. Hell, yeah they’re almost identical. Much more closely alike than “My Sweet Lord” and “He’s so Fine”, in my opinion. Amazing what the brain digs up when you least expect it. However, I was listening to a jazz song the other day. The crux of the riff is EXACTLY Yes’s “Roundabout.” Which I had to listen to several times Okay. Maybe it was only a few times. Selective memory, I suppose.

  10. Lee

    I get that Lana’s song is a direct ripoff. But why is Radiohead even suing? Don’t they hate “Creep”?

  11. T Money

    What a load of bull on all fronts. None of these three songs sound the same. They all use I, III, IV, Ovm chord progression. So what? Nearly all blues songs follow a I, IV, V pattern, so I guess no one can ever write a typical blues song again and the 1000s of blues artists in the last 80 or so years should be sued by the Robert Johnson estate. Insanity!!!!