So says Bruce Springsteen during his keynote address for SXSW last week, “Listen up youngsters, this is how successful theft is accomplished”, as Bruce segues from the Animals song “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” into “Badlands”. “It’s the same fuckin’ riff, man!” Go to the 23:24 mark to hear it.
And so Bruce exposes what has long been known. Borrowing or sampling isn’t just a hip hop thing. It’s been used throughout rock’s history. Here are a few of the more infamous occurances.
The Chiffon’s “He’s So Fine” (1962) vs. George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” (1970). The publishers for “He’s So Fine” filed a suit lasting over ten years. In September 1976, a US district court decision found that Harrison had “subconsciously” copied the earlier tune.
Huey Lewis “I Want A New Drug” (1983) vs. Ray Parker Jr. “Ghostbusters” (1984). Lewis sued and settled out of court in 1995.
Led Zeppelin had been know to “borrow” heavily from other artists. Here’s a good compilation of their work. Many lawsuits followed when these Led Zeppelin tunes were released and have been settled out of court and/or been given proper songwriting credit and more importantly, royalties for all sales.
The Axis of Awesome spectacularly recreates how every pop song is just the same four chords. Listen up youngsters! This is how it’s done.