8 Songs That Were Accused Of Plagiarizing Other Artists

July 19, 2016

When it comes to music, art, jokes, writing, etc, plagiarism is a big red flag. Sometimes filing a lawsuit is warranted, while other times it can be downright silly. Sometimes it's clearly obvious someone copied another's work. Other times it can be purely coincidental, or "parallel thinking." Regardless, plagiarism isn't unheard of in the rock world, and below are eight songs that allegedly came from someone else.

1. Spirit's "Taurus" vs Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven"

Notably, one of the most popular rock songs period, Led Zeppelin recently were sued by the estate of Spirit's late guitarist Randy California for alleged plagiarism of Spirit's guitar riff from their song "Taurus" and using it in "Stairway To Heaven." After six days of court, Led Zeppelin was found to be not guilty. 

2. Gordon Jenkins' "Crescent City Blues" vs Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues"

Although the great Johnny Cash will echo as one of rock n' roll's most iconic artists, he was forced to pay composer Gordon Jenkins $75,000 after he was sued for his song "Folsom Prison Blues" which lifted the lyrics and melodies from Jenkins' song "Crescent City Blues."

3. Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me" vs The Beatles' "Come Together"

When two rock n' roll icons clash when it comes to copying another's work, you can be sure it'll get nasty. Chuck Berry's publishing company sued John Lennon after allegedly copying Berry's lyrics from "You Can't Catch Me" and using them in their popular hit "Come Together." Lennon agreed to record three songs for the publishing company's owner Morris Levy, which would lead to another lawsuit between Lennon and Levy that lasted for many years.

4. Huey Lewis and The News' "I Want A New Drug" vs The Ghostbusters Theme Song

Everyone has heard of the Oscar-nominated theme song to the cult classic film "Ghostbusters." But one individual that wasn't too pleased with its composition was Huey Lewis, filing a lawsuit against its composer Ray Parker Jr. The two parties settled out of court. The producers of "Ghostbusters" would later admit in an interview with Premiere magazine that after Lewis declined their offer to write the score to the film's theme song, they hired Parker and gave him Huey Lewis' "I Want A New Drug" as a reference. 

5. Albert Hammond's "The Air I Breathe" vs Radiohead's "Creep"

After Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood sued Radiohead for allegedly copying the chord progressions and vocal stylings of "The Air I Breathe," Radiohead settled with the duo by giving them co-writing credits to their smash hit "Creep."

6. Queen & David Bowie's "Under Pressure" vs Vanilla Ice's - "Ice Ice Baby"

If the opening bass line to both songs sound so identical that you're not sure which song is about to be played, that could mean bad news for rapper Vanilla Ice. Accused of lifting the famous funky bass riff to "Under Pressure," Vanilla Ice agreed to pay both Queen and David Bowie royalties from the song in order to avoid taking the matter to court.

7. Jorge Ben Jor's "Taj Mahal" vs Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"

Brazilian artist Jorge Ben sued Rod Stewart for stealing the vocal hook from his song "Taj Mahal" and using it in "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" As part of his settlement, Stewart would donate a percentage of the song's earnings to UNICEF. According to his autobiography Rod: The Autobiography, Stewart said, "I held my hand up straight away. Not that I'd stood in the studio and said, 'Here. I know we'll use that tune from 'Taj Mahal' as the chorus. The writer lives in Brazil, so he'll never find out.' Clearly the melody had lodged itself in my memory and then resurfaced. Unconscious plagiarism, plain and simple." 

8. Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Run Through The Jungle" vs John Fogerty's "The Old Man Down The Road"

When Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up in 1972, frontman John Fogerty was still under contract to his label Fantasy Records to produce eight albums. He relinquished his publishing rights to Creedence to Saul Zaentz of Fantasy Records in order to get out of his contract. Zaentz would later sue Fogerty for copying Creedence's "Run Through The Jungle" with his song "The Old Man Down The Road." In other words, Forgery was sued for copying himself. Fogerty won the lawsuit, but settled a defamation lawsuit against Zaentz after attacking the label head in the song "Zanz Kant Danz."

(sources: Billboard, Fuse.tv)