artists ripping off artists

about a year ago, a court in los angeles decided that led zeppelin didn’t rip off (take, steal) the late (deceased) songwriter randy california‘s song taurus. california wrote taurus at the end of the 1960s when he was in the band spirit. his estate (people who manage the property and money of a deceased person) was suing over similarities between his composition

and the led zeppelin classic stairway to heaven which was released in 1971.

these types of lawsuits (legal action) are common in the modern era of popular music.  in fact blues musician willie dixon sued (took legal action to recover damages) led zeppelin in 1985 saying zep’s whole lotta love (1969)

was a ripoff (imitation, theft) of his u need love. this version, performed by muddy waters, is from 1963.

dixon ended up getting an undisclosed settlement (they agreed on a quantity of money outside of court, but didn’t report how much it was) and writing credit for the song.  zeppelin lead singer robert plant took the situation in stride (it didn’t bother him) saying the lyrical parallels were “happily paid for” and observing  “u only get caught when you’re successful.”

fun english practice  :) richyrocks english on youtube

the simpsons poke a little fun at (mock) led zeppelin guitarist jimmy page in the regina monologues episode.

but led zeppelin is not the only band to be challenged with charges of plagiarism (taking, copying).

  • chuck berry got publishing rights and author credits to the beach boys‘ big hit surfin’ usa (1963)

because it borrowed extensively from berry’s sweet little 16 (1958).

  • despite the strongly spiritual tone of my sweet lord,

george harrison had to pay more than half a milliion dollars to the chiffons because it sounded like their teenage crush (romantic feelings) track he’s so fine.


  • maybe the most pathetic example of trying to make money this way was when fantasy records sued credence clearwater revivial frontman john fogerty for supposedly plagiarizing (copying) himself.  fantasy owned the rights to the credence song run through the jungle,

and claimed (alleged, argued) fogerty was copying his old band with his solo hit the old man down the road in 1985.  fantasy lost.


  • songwriter paul rose has slapped u2 with a $5 milion lawsuit (is suing) for taking parts of his song nae slappin

and using them in their song the fly.

  • pop/r&b singer robin thicke has expressed admiration for soul legend marvin gaye, and been accused of blurring (confusing) the line between admiring and stealing more than once.  in the case of blurred lines

thicke & co-author pharell williams had to pay the estate of the late marvin gaye a whopping (really big) $7.3 million plus 50% of the song’s future royalties (money paid to use a song) because of its resemblance to gaye’s got to give it up.

  • casey dienel aka white hinterland says the vocal at the beginning and throughout (in all parts) justin bieber and skrillex‘s song sorry

is taken from her song ring the bell.

additionally, without trying very hard, i have compiled a short list of songs that sound alike (the same), but to my knowledge have never led to litigation (lawsuits).

  • the bassline of michael jackson‘s the way u make me feel (1987), starting at 1:10 on the video,

is identical to the bassline of everybody wants to rule the world by tears for fears (1985), starting at :35.


  • the guitar intro for all i wanna do is make love to u by heart (1990)

and the very short guitar solo on here i go again by whitesnake (1987) sound alot alike.


  • and the intro to one direction‘s live while we’re young (2013)

is totally reminiscent of (reminds u of) the intro to the clash‘s should i stay or should i go (1982).

it would be remiss (negligent, irresponsible) to talk about artists ripping each other off and not mention this treasure from vanilla ice in 1990.  his attempt to show that the ice, ice baby hook (part of the song everyone recognizes) wasn’t a ripoff of queen and david bowie‘s under preussure is funny,

but it didn’t convince anybody.  queen and bowie were eventually listed as authors on ice, ice baby.


finally, tom petty decided not to sue the red hot chilli peppers even though it’s easy to hear the likeness (similarity) between their song dani, california (2006)

and his song mary jane’s last dance (1993)

petty gave this explanation

a lot of rock & roll songs sound alike. ask chuck berry… if someone took my song note for note and stole it maliciously, then maybe. but I don’t believe in lawsuits much. i think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs.

if someone took my song…stole it maliciously expresses a hypothetical situation (2nd conditional).  frivolous is excessive, unnecessary.

which of the songs above sound like ripoffs to u? share your opinion under leave a reply 


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