Thursday, January 18, 2007

Some Plagiarism and Songs Resembling Each Other Cases From Music History

Zombie Nation: 'Kernkraft 400' (1999)

Before the current Tempest vs. Timbaland case, claims of plagiarism go a long way back in music. Here are some (and more or less random) brief examples from the history of popular music, though these are only the proverbial tip of the iceberg of all the cases where an artist or his/her record label has claimed someone else has stolen his/her music... In the current day of "postmodern", "retro" type of pastiche pop where "ironic" references and "appropriations" (or "homages") abound everywhere, maybe it's harder to speak about plagiarism in any traditional terms, so it's interesting to see how our ideas about this will change in time.

  • The Kinks successfully sued The Doors for plagiarizing their 'All Day and All of the Night' to 'Hello, I Love You' in 1968.
  • 'Black Knight' (1970) by Deep Purple sounds very much like 'We Ain't Got Nothing Yet' by The Blues Magoos (of Nuggets) fame. Actually, Wikipedia says: "The riff to Deep Purple's 1970 'Black Night' single was closely based off the riff to Ricky Nelson's 1962 'Summertime' (Deep Purple have said this themselves). In fact, the riff is a popular one to borrow. In 1966/67 the Blue Magoos had 'We Ain't Got Nothing Yet' around the same time that Status Quo had own their version. But the riff seems to stem back to Ricky Nelson's 1962 rock version re-working of the old George Gershwin standard 'Summertime'".
  • George Harrison was sued for plagiarizing 'He's So Fine' by The Chiffons for his song 'My Sweet Lord' in a long-lasting law suit which started in 1971. Harrison was ordered to pay $587,000 to Bright Tunes Music (the owners of the song's copyright) in 1976, after a judge found him guilty of "subconscious" plagiarism. The Chiffons would later record 'My Sweet Lord' to capitalize on the publicity generated by the lawsuit.
  • Led Zeppelin used a riff from 'Taurus' by Spirit for their best-known song, 'Stairway to Heaven'. Spirit's guitarist Randy California was reportedly just happy to let Zeppelin to use the riff. Led Zeppelin was often also accused of using old blues songs uncredited as the basis of their own tracks. Also Bob Dylan has been accused along the years of "appropriating" old songs for his own tracks.
  • David Bowie's 1972 single 'Starman' has its chorus loosely based on Judy Garland's song 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
  • There is said to be some resemblance between Bon Jovi's 'You Give Love A Bad Name' of 1986 and Belinda Carlisle's 1987 hit 'Heaven Is A Place On Earth'.
  • All unsold copies of 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?), the 1987 debut album of The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (a.k.a. The KLF) were ordered to be destroyed by the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society, following a complaint from ABBA; the JAMS having sampled large portions of ABBA's 'Dancing Queen' for the track 'Queen and I'.
  • De La Soul was sued by The Turtles members for featuring an uncredited sample (the intro to The Turtles' 'You Showed Me') in the song 'Transmitting Live from Mars' on De La Soul's 1989 debut album. This was one of the first court cases over sampling music.
  • Negativland issued in 1991 a single called 'U2', featuring parodies of the group U2's well-known song 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For', including kazoos and extensive sampling of the original song. U2's label Island Records sued Negativland and most copies of the single were recalled and destroyed.
  • For their 1997 track 'Bittersweet Symphony' -- using a licensed sample from the Andrew Oldham Orchestra's version of 'The Last Time' by The Rolling Stones (1965) -- The Verve (UK) was sued by ABKCO Records of Allen Klein, which owns the rights to The Stones' 60s recordings. ABCKO claimed The Verve had used "too much" of the sample. The matter was eventually settled out of court, with copyright of the song (which lyrics were written entirely by The Verve vocalist, Richard Ashcroft) reverting to ABKCO and songwriting credits to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Stones.
  • Splank of Zombie Nation had to pay an undisclosed amount to David Whittaker, the programmer who wrote the original music riff to 80s Commodore-64 computer game 'Lazy Jones', which was used as the basis of Zombie Nation's 1999 hit 'Kernkraft 400'.
  • 'Älä koskaan ikinä' ("Don't You Never Ever"), the 2003 hit for Finnish band Egotrippi is said by some to bear a considerable resemblance to Procol Harum's 1975 track 'Pandora's Box'.