When it comes to the music industry, plagiarism isn’t a new topic. Songs have been allegedly lifted off and ripped off since the 70’s. We take a look at some of the most blatant attempts of copying someone else’s work!
Music making is a form of creativity that only the greatest of minds can seem to master. Although, everyone who tries their hand at music isn’t so lucky after all. This is where the possibility of taking a piece of someone else’s work and moulding it into your own work of art comes in. Over the past 30-40 years, several artists and bands have come under scrutiny for plagiarising songs and content. There have been several instances when these cases have turned into high profile court proceedings with huge amounts of cash for compensation.
While some of the songs in this list have some subtle nuances lifted from the alleged songs, some of them are blatant reproductions of the originals with absolutely no new input. This just goes on to show that plagiarism is something that is not going to go out of fashion for a long time to come.
Here are some of the tracks that came under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons!
1. Robin Thicke – ‘Blurred Lines’/ Marvin Gaye- ‘Got To Give It Up’
The accusation came from Marvin Gaye’s family who accused Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams of lifting the drum beat and the rhythm of the original Marvin Gaye song. The accusations also arose from the fact that Robin Thicke had stated in an interview that he had drawn inspiration from Gaye’s 1977 hit- ‘Got to give it up’. The court ruled in Marvin Gaye’s favour and the duo was asked to pay almost $7M for damages and profits earned for copyright infringement! Yikes!
2. Vanilla Ice – ‘Ice Ice Baby’/ Queen- ‘Under Pressure’
This one was less of an accusation and more a fact. Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ had a hook that was super catchy and unmistakably unique for the years to come. What Vanilla did was sample the USP music part that Queens’s song was known for and use it in his song without permission. That right there is what plagiarism is all about. The case went to court and Vanilla, being smart, pulled out of court and settled the issue by paying an undisclosed sum! You don’t rip off the legends and get off easy.
3. Ed Sheeran – ‘Thinking Out Loud’/ Marvin Gaye- ‘Let’s Get It On’
Yes, this is the second time Marvin Gaye is going to make an appearance on the list because of the number of artists who have purportedly used his songs as “inspiration”. Ed Townsend, the writer and composer of the super hit Gaye track, filed a lawsuit stating that Ed Sheeran duplicated the melodic, rhythmic and harmonic compositions of the Marvin Gaye track. Although this seems a bit far fetched, have a listen for yourself and judge!
4. Led Zeppelin – ‘Stairway To Heaven’/ Taurus- ‘Spirit’
In what might be the biggest lawsuit in the music industry in recent years, the Taurus & Led Zeppelin case just concluded a few months back. Led Zeppelin was accused of lifting the guitar strings from Taurus’s ‘Spirit’ for their monstrous hit ‘Stairway To Heaven’. Randy Wolfe sued the band and the trial underwent court proceedings in mid 2016. After countless sessions with band members in court, it was finally ruled that Led Zeppelin was not guilty and Randy Wolfe ended up paying an insanely huge amount.
5. Sam Smith – ‘Stay With Me’/ Tom Petty- ‘I Won’t Back Down’
This case is a bit different from all the others because this was settled amicably between both the artists. When Sam Smith was about to release his breakthrough hit ‘Stay With Me’, he issued a statement to add Petty and Jeff Lynne as co-writers, together with them receiving a 12.5% songwriting credit after similarities were spotted between both their songs. Sam apparently claimed that he had never heard of Tom Petty’s song before, but once you listen to both the tracks, even you’ll doubt the cheeky faced boy!
6. Mark Ronson – ‘Uptown Funk’/ The Gap Band- ‘Oops Upside Your Head’
Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’ had all the winning elements it needed to stay on the #1 position of the Billboard Top 100 for more than 6 months. There was a wild Bruno Mars providing vocals but then came the supposed influences lifted from The Gap Band’s ‘Oops Upside Your Head’. Mark Ronson, after a couple of months of the song being released, started adding more and more credits to the songs because of all the attention it was getting. He then got around to adding the band member’s names one after the other!
7. Katy Perry – ‘Roar’/ Sara Bareilles- ‘Brave’
Sara Bareilles track ‘Brave’ was the first one to come out in 2013 and earned her a number 1 spot on the charts. Not long after that, Katy Perry was set to make a comeback with her song ‘Roar’. Once the song dropped, people who heard the track found some resemblances in the form that the backing vocals were similar to Sara’s track. To these allegations, Katy’s writer Dr.Luke said that ‘Roar’ was written and recorded even before ‘Brave’ came out. Now all these words are just hearsay, no one knows what really happened. There were no lawsuits though.
8. Oasis- ‘Step Out’/ Stevie Wonder- ‘Uptight’
When Oasis was coming out with their second album ‘(Whats The Story) Morning Glory’ Stevie Wonder got news of the track ‘Step Out’ being influenced by ‘Uptight’, one of his own tracks. Wonder then demanded for 10% royalties for the use of his track as influences. Everyone in Oasis eventually agreed and the track appeared on the B-side with Stevie getting credits for the track.