They say there's nothing new under the sun and, if these artists' actions are to be believed, that might be true. While the following musicians in question crafted some of the most iconic music in recent history, many of their biggest hits were gleaned from the work of others. Here are 15 major music artist rip-offs.
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One Direction recently caught the ire of classic rock fans over their single “Best Song Ever.” It seems the track sounds a bit too much like The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” to be chalked up to coincidence. For the record, Pete Townshend admitted he had no problems with the rip-off.
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Katy Perry's “Roar” was recently accused of ripping off a number of lesser known songs, including Sara Bareilles “Brave.” Unlike many on this list, the discussion of similarities between the two has, in turn, made Bareilles song a hit. Still, neither Sara nor Katy have commented on the issue.
Ripping off other artists is a time-honored tradition in the industry of rap and hip-hop, though Akon may have taken things a little far with “Don’t Matter.” The track steals its musical arrangement from R. Kelly’s previous hit, “Ignition”, while adding a bit of Bob Marley’s “Zimbabwe” for good measure.
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Radiohead have been frequently accused of ripping off artists that came before them, though the case of their iconic “Creep” is probably the most famous example of their thieving. The mopey Thom Yorke song is a pretty clear cut knock off of The Hollies “The Air That I Breathe,” so much so that Radiohead was sued over it. Yorke now shares writing credits with members of The Hollies, not to mention royalties.
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Punk rock heroes Green Day aren’t above a bit of thievery, “American Idiot” being their most popular plagiarism to date. The album’s title track stole everything but the lyrics to Dillinger Four’s “Doublewhiskeycokenoice”. Things got hashed out in a lawsuit, resulting in Dillinger Four sharing credit with their mainstream contemporaries.
Pearl Jam has been ripped off countless times, though their most famous knock-off (aside from the entire catalogue of Creed) was made by Metallica. The grunge group's “Why Go” had its main riff reworked into a metal song by Metallica called “The End of the Line.” Even weirder, the song appeared on Metallica’s recent Death Magnet when “Why Go” originated on Pearl Jam’s decades old Ten.
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Oasis, the nineties answer to The Beatles that never quite measured up, never even bothered to be subtle in choosing what bands to plagiarize. Here’s their hit “Cigarette and Alcohol” juxtaposed with T. Rex’s more iconic “Get It On.”
“Whole Lotta Love”, “Stairway to Heaven”, “Dazed and Confused”-- Led Zeppelin is responsible for some of the greatest rock songs of all time. The only problem? Said songs were all ripped off by the band from less popular artists, including The Yardbirds, Spirit, and bluesman Willie Dixon.
Of all the rip-offs on this list, “Ice Ice Baby” was the most obvious to mainstream audiences upon its initial release. Despite the fact the song clearly rips off Queen and David Bowie’s single “Under Pressure”, Ice boldly denied the rip-off, claiming the bass line change marked a significant difference. It didn’t…
Ray Parker Jr.
Everyone loves the Ghostbusters theme song, a classic of the 1980s by Ray Parker Jr. Well, everyone but Huey Lewis-- the veteran songwriter sued Parker for ripping off his hit “I Want A New Drug” and apparently settled out of court.
What do Madonna and Public Enemy have in common? Besides being two of the most popular acts of the 1980s and 1990s, one was ripped off by the other. Can you guess which Public Enemy classic was re-tooled for Madonna’s hit “Justify My Love”?
“Soul Makoosa” by Manu Dingabu has inspired many rip-offs from popular artists, though none is more glaring than “You Wanna Be Starting Something.” The classic Michael Jackson song was produced by Quincy Jones and earned Jackson major critical acclaim… along with a lawsuit from Dingabu.
Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" was the hit of summer 2013 and peaked at number one on the Billboard charts. Robin Thicke preemptively sued the family of Marvin Gaye, but Gaye's family has accused Thicke of stealing the sound of Gaye's "Got To Give It Up." Thicke has claimed it was only inspired by Gaye's hit. We'll see how things eventually play out.
Of all the artists on this list, surely John Lennon, the patron saint of rock music, is free of guilt, right? In reality, he swiped several of his most iconic compositions from Chuck Berry, tweaked them slightly and tried to spin them as his own. Ironically he would respond to accusations by claiming the tracks weren’t rip-off, but “love-ins.”
The Beach Boys
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Yeah, The Beach Boys ripped of Chuck Berry, too. Their hit “Surfin U.S.A.”, a summertime staple, is one of the most glaring knockoffs of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” ever recorded. See the comparison below.