Many songs have similarities. Who hasn’t gone, “Hey, that song sounds like this other song.” After all, there are only so many musical notes, scales, and sounds available to humans. However, some songs are . . . how do I put this . . . blatant and unapologetic copies of others songs. Here are some songs that, in my opinion (and, in some cases, the opinion of the courts) are ripped from other songs.
Disclaimer: These are all my opinions. Don’t sue me. I’m a writer and a student. Thus, I have no money.
1. Mayer Hawthorne “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’” (2009) and The Supremes’s “You Can’t Hurry Love” (1966)
This one is just ridiculous. The beginning, the bass line, the trumpets, the melody line, the drums, the tambourine—you didn’t even try to hide it did you, Mr. Hawthorne? Honestly, I don’t know why Hawthorne hasn’t been sued yet. Maybe “You Can’t Hurry Love” is so old that it is now considered part of the public domain. Who knows? Personally, I’ll take “You Can’t Hurry Love” over “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’” all day long.
2. Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” (1967) and Sam and Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’” (1966)
Well, I guess that it’s okay to copyright infringe on yourself . . . .
3. George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” (1971) and The Chiffons “He’s So Fine” (1962)
“My Sweet Lord” was George Harrison’s first solo single and, instead of getting praise, poor Harrison was slapped with a lawsuit by Bright Tunes Music Corporation for copyright infringement of “He’s So Fine.” In the end, the judge concluded that Harrison didn’t mean to copy “He’s So Fine,” but deemed that Harrison still had to pay $587,000.00 to Bright Tunes. You can read more here: “George Harrison vs Bright Tunes Music Corp.”
4. Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” (1971) and Spirit’s “Taurus” (1968)
One of the most iconic songs of all time stolen from another band? *gasp* Spirit actually toured with Led Zeppelin back in the day, and the last surviving member of Spirit has filed a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin. If you listen to the beginning instrumental of “Taurus,” it becomes very hard to deny the similarities between that song’s guitar lick and the iconic guitar arpeggio in “Stairway to Heaven.” Okay, let’s be honest. It sounds pretty much lifted straight from “Taurus.” The melodies of the two songs are different, but, man, that guitar. It will be interesting to see what the courts decide. You can read more about the lawsuit here: “Spirit v. Led Zeppelin: Analysis of the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Infringement Lawsuit.”
5. Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” (1990) and Queen & David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” (1981)
This one was so obvious that it is known as one of the most famous copyright infringements in music.
Vanilla Ice tried to deny the blatant ripping of “Under Pressure” in the clip below. Right. The bass lines are different. Sure, Mr. Vanilla Ice, sure.
6. John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change” (2006) and Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” (1965)
Listen to the beginning melody line of each song. Methinks Mr. Mayer was influenced by/copied Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready.” Although, if you’re going to copy an artist, you might as well copy one of the best.
I should say that music constantly influences other music, no matter the genre. In a way, music is one big human and global collaboration. Heck, Paul McCartney and John Lennon once said that they were hugely influenced by the American girl groups of the 1960s. However, there is a difference between giving a musical nod to an artist and music plagiarism. What are some songs that you think might be copies of other songs?
I think that there is only so many nice sounding rhythms you can come up with in the world so it’s inevitable that some songs sound the same. I believe Nirvana had a few similar sounding songs as well (Smells Like Teen Spirit and Rape Me), and I was quite intrigued by that. Despite that, I think the artists which came up with the later version just drew inspiration from older works (like you mentioned) and that’s alright, I guess. A very interesting post you got here and I enjoyed listening to the similar sounding tunes 🙂
A friend of mine who writes music in Nashville told me, “All the music has already been written.” I wonder if all the stories have been told?
What an interesting post! I’m going to have to give it some serious thought. Hard for me because in 1972 I started listening backwards. I know very little of the music that came out after that, save for a bit of Broadway. Makes me wonder how many books fall into that category.
I’ve heard that all stories have been told before. It’s the execution of the idea that counts, though. 🙂
Thank you very much for reading, and I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. 🙂 I think that being influenced by, and drawing inspiration from, past creative endeavors is one thing–perhaps an unavoidable thing. However, I think that that there is a line somewhere in which “influenced by” becomes “taking credit for something that isn’t yours.” I think that the line can be hazy, and maybe it varies from case to case.
Thank you, Calen. 🙂 I’m glad that you liked it. I can’t really think of any songs that might be copyright infringement that aren’t from the 1980s on. Perhaps that warrants some research and maybe another blog post–“Possibly Ripped Songs: Part Deux.” That books idea is intriguing as well. I’ll have to look into that. Thank you for the idea! 🙂
Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” seems like a copy of Madonna’s “Express yourself”. But hey, since Madonna has also borrowed heavily from greats before her, how can she complain? Like poetry, we build on what came before. It is only when it is downright plagiarism that there is reason for concern.
Ooo, they do sound alike. Good one! Apparently, Madonna feels like she should be able to complain: http://www.etonline.com/music/160283_madonna_says_lady_gaga_ripped_off_her_song_in_rolling_stone/. If anything, complaining got her a Rolling Stone cover. I’m actually a little surprised that she didn’t sue since she got upset about it. I definitely agree with you though. Being influenced and downright copying are two very different things, and when you move into the world of obvious plagiarism, then you’ve got a problem. Thank you for reading and for your interesting comment! 🙂
I just learned about this artist Mayer Hawthorne, his songs are hot, but I am
a musician and know a lot of music history, and I can tell you that in
almost every single song I have heard of his, like 25 probably of them
in the last couple days, every one of them has some line, sound, cliche,
melody, progression, beat, etc that he copied from some other song.
The thing is his audience will be 15-30 year olds and they have
most likely never heard the songs I am talking about as they
are from the 60s and 70s. I am surprised he has not been sued
for this, I found this page while searching for Mayer Hawthorne
lawsuit actually as I found it quite remarkable how almost every
one of his songs has copied/imitated parts to it.
Thanks for reading! I didn’t know that so many of his songs had copied elements. I wonder if he will get sued. Led Zepplin got sued for supposedly lifting part of “Stairway to Heaven” from Spirit’s “Taurus,” yet Led Zepplin won. So, I wonder if Mayer Hawthorne would win too if he got sued (sometimes, it seems like the one with the most money tends to win the lawsuits). Then again, maybe his “sampling” is protected as creative expression. I’m not sure.
Thanks for letting me know about his other songs. Now, I’ve got to check them out and see if I can pinpoint which 60s and 70s songs he “sampled.” 🙂
I am going through Mayer Hawthorne songs one by one and will state things he copied that I recognized easily.
Most every song has some elements COPIED From various The Delfonics songs. Plus these that I recognize.
Mayer Hawthorne – The Valley COPIED Little China Girl, David Bowie
Mayer Hawthorne – A New Love COPIED French Horn Lick, James Bond Films, and The Delfonics – Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)
Mayer Hawthorne – Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’ COPIED You can’t hurry Love, the Supremes w/Tamborine Lick
Mayer Hawthorne – I wish it would rain – COPIED toy piano lick, other items, will remember later
Mayer Hawthorne – Her Favorite Song – COPIED modern band’s lick, not familiar enough to remember the band though.
Mayer Hawthorne – The Walk COPIED – Crystal Blue Persuasion – Tommy James & The Shondells (With Lyrics)
UPDATE: It seems it is more extensive then I thought and there are pros who do this as a hobby. Here is a website with many more of his songs and listed songs he copied.
I mean pros who study who copies other artists, the above site shows many links, and most every Mayer song has copied parts just like I thought that these ear pros recognized as well.
Oh. My. Gosh. That’s amazing. Thanks for sharing this information. How does he keep getting away with it? Is it because the songs are old enough to be considered in the “public domain?”
You know, it’s interesting that you mentioned “The Walk.” My dad was listening to it, and he was like, “I KNOW that I’ve heard this before, but I can’t remember where.” I’ll have to tell him that it’s from “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”
Do you have a blog by chance? I’d love to subscribe to it if you do. You find such interesting information.
Public domain is currently songs 1923 or earlier, nothing in the 60s, 70s, 80s will be in public domain for 50+ years from now. No blog, just got interested in this hawthorne stuff randomly a few weeks ago as I have never heard anyone copy people so directly so many times. I just read that a rap group won a lawsuit against a major multimillionaire artist for copying one of their songs, so I think the only reason Mayer has not got sued is perhaps the families controlling the estates of the deceased artists are not aware of him, as I don’t think he is major popular from his youtube views, or the companies who own the rights to these old deceased artists are the same ones who manage Hawthorne, thus they won’t sue themselves, or maybe some other angle I can’t think of right now.
Oh, gotcha. Yeah, that has to be it. He just isn’t big enough yet for the families to notice, and the companies don’t mind making more money off of stuff they’ve already made money off of.
Oh, that’s too bad. If you ever decide to start one (perhaps a music blog?), please let me know. 🙂
Look at this
Robin Thick lost his lawsuit and Mayer Hawthorne’s “Henny and Ginerale” is basically the same level of direct copying of multiple elements, even down to the intro where you hear people sitting around tinkling cups as Robin Thicke’s song “blurred lines”.
Marvin Gaye Original
Mayer Hawthorne Copied
Robin Thicke Copied
I think he even literally used the exact same beats per minute along with
all the other stuff he copied. Play the original, keep your foot tapping, then click on the Mayer song.
It is amazing going through that site I sent the link to where people show who copied who.
I have to stop doing this it is sucking too much of my time !