There are only 12 notes in the chromatic scale. So, how original can a pop song truly be? Recently, Sam Smith got into legal trouble for his hit song “Stay With Me” (co-written by Smith, James Napier and William Phillips) for its similarities with Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” (co-written by Petty and Jeff Lynne).
Smith settled out of court with Petty and now Petty and Lynne are credited as writers as well! Considering that “Stay With Me” is a Grammy-nominated #1 hits, you can see why Petty and Lynne were concerned.
Of course, this is nothing new for someone like Robin Thicke, whom the estate of Marvin Gaye have been taking to task for copyright infringement as well.
So does this mean that the pop stars of today are creatively deceitful, trying to pass off the hits of the past as their own? Maybe. But then again, Led Zeppelin has been accused of the same sins and has had to settle with songwriters they ‘borrowed’ from.
When you also consider the antics of Noel Gallagher (Oasis), one finds that over the decades pop and rock stars have often cribbed a tune and lyric or two in order to come up with something new. But when does a songwriter go from being influenced by another songwriter to stealing from him or her? Bottom line – when the more than enough listeners (include the original songwriters) notice…