Music plagiarism is big news in almost any era. Sure, Robin Thicke and Pharrell had to shell out $5 million to Marvin Gaye's estate for their "Blurred Lines" infringement and there was the whole Tom Petty/Sam Smith debacle in recent music history, but singers have been ripping off other people's songs since recorded music first came on the scene, and even before that. What are the most blatant ripoff songs that obviously donned music, lyrics, or both from other tracks?
Chances are, your favorite band has either intentionally or purposefully lifted someone else's lyrics or melody - and probably had it done to them as well. While some plagiarism cases are extremely well known (George Harrison ganking the melody of "He's So Fine," or John Fogerty being sued for plagiarizing himself, for example) there are almost limitless examples of songs being plagiarized. Some lawsuits against defendants were unsuccessful, while in other cases, the pilferer got slapped down with huge judgments.
These blatant cases of plagiarism cross genres, decades, and styles, showing that musicians "borrowing" from each other is no rarity. Is your favorite song a rip off of another famous musician? Find out in the list below.
Perhaps the most blatant ripoff on this list, Vanilla Ice was sued by Queen and David Bowie for lifting their riff from "Under Pressure" in his 1989 hit "Ice Ice Baby." Although Vanilla Ice's song was the first hip-hop song to top the Billboard charts, the legacy of the song is tarnished by the pilfered sample.
All four members of Queen and David Bowie were later credited for the riff, and they were compensated with both money and a writing credit for the song.
Here's "Ice Ice Baby":
And now listen to "Under Pressure" - you'll have no trouble spotting the similarities:
In 2016, indie artist White Hinterland (whose real name is Casey Dienel) sued Justin Bieber, claiming that his song "Sorry" lifted an eight-second vocal riff from her song, "Ring the Bell." Skrillex, who wrote and produced the song, was also named in the suit. In 2017, White Hinterland dropped the suit.
Take a listen below to hear for yourself. Check out the beginning riff in Dienel's song:
And the one in Bieber's:
Another "homage" to classic rock by One Direction, "Live While We're Young" adopts the iconic opening chords to The Clash's classic "Should I Stay Or Should I Go." Like the band's earlier pilfering of "Baba O'Riley," it serves to draw the ear of older listeners while not being extensive enough to merit a plagiarism claim.
Well played, boys. Well played. Here's "Live While We're Young":
And The Clash performing "Should I Stay or Should I Go":
Fans of Brit boy band One Direction took to Twitter in panic, fearing that the group's new single "Best Song Ever" was going to be purged from the Internet due to a lawsuit from Pete Townshend, for ripping off some band they'd never heard of called The Who.
While "Best Song Ever" clearly lifts the iconic opening guitar chords from "Baba O'Riley," the rest of the song is totally different, and the band said the lift was done as a tribute. Townshend took it in good humor, saying he liked the song and had no trouble with it.
"Best Song Ever":