Chances are, your favorite band has either intentionally or purposefully stolen 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 stealing 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 were successful, others got slapped down with huge judgements.
These blatant cases of musical plagiarism cross genres, decades, and styles, showing that musicians stealing from each other is no rarity. Is your favorite song a rip off of another famous musician? Find out in the list below!
"Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice vs. "Under Pressure" by Queen
Perhaps the most blatant ripoff on this list, Vanilla Ice was sued by Queen and David Bowie for stealing 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 stolen sample. All four members of Queen and David Bowie were later credited for the riff, and 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:
"Live While We're Young" by One Direction vs. "Should I Stay or Should I Go" by The Clash
Another "homage" to classic rock by One Direction, "Live While We're Young" steals 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":
"Best Song Ever" by One Direction vs. "Baba O'Riley" by The Who
Fans of Brit boy band One Direction took to Twitter in panic that the group's new single "Best Song Ever" was going to be purged from the Internet due to a lawsuit from some old codger named 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 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":
"Baba O'Riley" (live, with Pete Townshend beating the crap out of a tambourine):
"Dazed and Confused" by Led Zeppelin vs. "Dazed and Confused" by Jake Holmes
One could write an entire list just of Led Zeppelin's alleged and confirmed thefts. But maybe the most blatant was in the case of "Dazed and Confused." As the story goes, folk singer Jake Holmes wrote the song in 1967, whereby it was soon covered by The Yardbirds, for whom Holmes was opening. The Yardbirds, in their death throes, at that time featured future Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.
Page liked the song so much he brought it to the sessions for Led Zeppelin's first album - albeit with new lyrics (based, in turn, on a different set of lyrics for the song, written by The Yardbirds singer Keith Relf) and a slightly altered melody. The song's arrangement remained the same. Page credited himself as the song's sole writer, and blew Holmes off when Holmes attempted to contact him a few years later. In essence, Page had stolen a hit song and ensured the original writer wouldn't get a nickel out of it.
Finally, in 2010, Jake Holmes sued Jimmy Page, with the two parties settling out of court. Even now, the song is credited only to Page, with "inspiration" by Holmes.
Here's the Zeppelin version:
And here's Holmes's original: