Image from YouTube.
Earlier this week news broke that the co-writer of the most powerful sex ballad of all freakin’ time, Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” was suing ginger mop top nice guy Ed Sheeran for what Marvin’s estate argues is his 2014 Grammy-winning single “Thinking Out Loud” blatantly ripping off the 1980s classic.
When you listen to the two side-by-side, you can kind of see their point.
Kind of. Or maybe the suing party is just trying to get a slice of the same sweet pie that Gaye's estate was awarded last year. Who knows?
What we do know is that as the dust does anything but settle, men in pubs around the world tonight will ask one another “But isn’t everything derivative anyway?” round and round until, I assume, all their heads explode.
The answers to such questions are many, and at odds.
But rather than join the incessant roundtable of tea-time chatter about “intellectual property” and whatever, we thought we’d take a walk down memory lane instead, and list a bunch of times boring white people (no offense Ed) were accused of stealing the work of basically everybody else.
Here we go.
Pharrell and Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines”
and Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give it Up" AKA The Song That Knox Dances to In Charlies Angels 1.
I want to start by saying that every single thing about this song, except the instrumental melody, sucks. The lyrics are horrible. The video is horrible. And Thicke’s starey-guy-at-a-club-who-keeps-telling-you-you’re-a-good-girl-even-though-he-clearly-doesn't-realise-"good"-"girl"-means-literally-nothing face is horrible.
Thank fuck somebody sued him. If not for stealing from Marvin Gaye, then for just being a disgusting creep.
Thicke and Williams paid $7.4 million to Gaye’s estate last year for copyright infringement, which was really the only possible outcome ever, seeing as in court Thicke literally admitted to sitting down, playing “Got to Give It Up” to Williams, and saying he wanted to “write a groove like this.”
I am not making this up.
Adele, “Million Years Ago”
And Ahmet Kaya's “Acilara Tutunmak.”
Late last year it was noted, by Twitter users in Turkey mostly, that the melody of Adele’s “Million Years Ago” sounded pretty dang similar to the song “Acilara Tutunmak” by Kurdish musician Ahmet Kaya, who died in 2000.
In the end, most people seemed to agree that the similarities were probably a coincidence, with Kaya’s wife even saying that she didn’t think Adele would’ve intentionally copied her late husband’s work (conspiracy imo).
We didn’t come here to be all democratic and cool about it though, so here you are:
Michael Bolton, “Love is A Wonderful Thing”
And The Isley Brothers' "Love is A Wonderful Thing"… Yeah. I know.
Back in 1991 Michael Bolton—the pop singer, not the one from Office Space—released a pretty average song called “Love is A Wonderful Thing” that, because people are terrible, became a huge hit.
Soon after, The Isley Brothers piped up and said “Hey wait a second… That hook sounds a lot like the hook from one of our lesser-known songs.” What was that song called? Oh, it was just called “Love is A Wonderful Thing.”
Okay so an extremely famous white pop star wrote a few lines of a song with the exact same lyrics and the exact same melody from another band’s song and made heaps and heaps of money out of it. Whatever! This is the music industry not a goddamn charity! Jeez louise, can’t a white man do anything at the expense of everybody else anymore?
Anyway. My favourite part about this case was when Bolton, after being told “Haha no dude” by a court of law and paying a settlement, told Billboard Magazine in an interview that he couldn’t have stolen the tune and or lyrics because doesn’t even like The Isley Brothers! Um, objection your honour: Nobody doesn’t like The Isley Brothers?
Take him away, boys.
Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”
And Koyote's "Happy Mode."
I’m sorry to even bring her up when we were all having such a nice time tbh but let us talk about how Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” is exactly the same song as K-Pop group Koyote’s “Happy Mode” (or “Gippeummodeu”).
A few news sources reported on the likeness and the composer of the original song, Joo Young Hoon, said he didn’t think there was any way his song would’ve been used. However, after being contacted by lawyers in the States and hearing that the composer of “All About That Bass” was actually a foreign composer, he started to think “yeah, okay, maybe.”
That was two years ago, so, y'know, any minute now.
For now, here’s all the evidence I'll be needing:
Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”
And The Gap Band's "Oops Upside Your Head."
So basically this song changed planet Earth. I can admit that. I mean, it has almost two billion plays on YouTube.
I even heard it myself once or forty-eight thousand times around the place—cabs, parties, cafes, my iPhone, etc—and had a practically out-of-body experience every time they do that build up thing that goes like bap bap bap bap bap bap and then “Don’t believe me just watch, ha!”
I’m no soulless android. I feel.
Unfortunately, it seems to have all been done at the expense of The Gap Band, whose “Oops Upside Your Head” has a verrrrrry similar hook.
But, being the all-round-inoffensive-nice-guy that he is, though, Ronson went ahead and put The Gap Band in the writing credits for “Uptown Funk.”
Funny story: I got so distracted watching the video for "Uptown Funk" when putting this whole thing together that I completely forgot was I was doing and spent twenty minutes watching related videos.
Oasis, “Step Out”
And Stevie Wonder, "Uptight."
What do you even say? Oasis are hot and everything, and “Champagne Supernova” is a goddamn tune, but they’re no stranger to being called out on appropriation and plagiarism.
These two tracks in particular? They’re exactly the fucking same.
The only good thing about this situation is imagining Noel or Liam ever listening to Stevie Wonder. Such a stupid and wonderful image.
The Beach Boys, “Surfin USA”
And Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen."
Brian Wilson was original in lots of ways. What with getting all those dogs and shit into the recording studio for Pets Sounds and stuff. Let’s just call this his least original moment.
Apparently soon after its release, Wilson added Berry to the writing credits because it was legit so damn obvious that he’d stolen the entire song.
Ha ha! Bit awkward!
Led Zeppelin, “Whole Lotta Love”
And Muddy Waters' "You Need Love."
I am laughing out loud at my desk.
Rod Stewart, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”
And Jorje Ben Jor's "Taj Mahal."
First things first: Why on earth did he spell “do” that way? It makes no sense. No sense! This is going to give me a lot of anxiety I can tell.
Stewart acknowledged the whole thing, payed up and donated “all profits” from the track to some kind of unrelated charity, and not long after, in his autobigoraphy, said it was a case of “unconscious plagiarism.” Meaning he knew the song, he’d heard it, but he didn't sit down in the studio and say out loud to everybody “let’s fuck this Jorje guy over big time!”
So… just regular plagiarism, then.
Now I’m not saying that I’m going to stop swinging my jacket around over my head and being generally obnoxious and awful every time this song comes on in, well, anywhere, but what I will say is that next time a DJ drops “Taj Mahal” by Jorge Ben Jor, the bouncers are going to have to do a lot more than “politely ask me to leave.”
The Tokens, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”
And Solomon Linda's "Mbube."
And then there’s this.
For god’s sake.