Pop Music Plagiarism's Worst Offenses: A History

Categories: Lists


4. Johnny Cash - "Folsom Prison Blues"

The Case: Even Johnny Cash, a man whose authenticity is central to his entire mystique, ran into some plagiarism trouble during his career. In fact, he lifted perhaps his most famous song nearly word-for-word from the forgotten Gordon Jenkins ballad "Crescent City Blues."

What Happened: Cash probably looked at his song as a parody, but that didn't matter. He still settled out of court at the sum of $75,000, which was a lot more in 1955 dollars.


3. Radiohead - "Creep"

The Case: Ah, Radiohead, the most iconic and original rock band of the century. The band remains (mostly) untarnished by controversy, and its members are heralded as the innovators they are. Oh yeah, they also blatantly copied some ancient '70s guitar rock on their first (and still most popular) single "Creep." Whoops. Needless to say, The Hollies were none too pleased when they heard their dulcet, slinky melody re-purposed for a song about self-loathing.

What Happened: Radiohead would go on to make much better, much more original music, and Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood of the Hollies will forever be credited as songwriters on "Creep."


2. The Verve - "Bitter Sweet Symphony"

The Case: In perhaps the biggest jobbing in history, the Verve played a Rolling Stones song backward to discover one of the most all-encompassing pop songs of all time. The band used this momentum to capture international fame and acclaim, right before the Rolling Stones, a band with a lot of money, decided to step in with legal counsel to claim royalties for "The Last Time."

What Happened: Every time a movie uses "Bitter Sweet Symphony" Mick Jagger and Keith Richards make some money. Does that make you angry? Well it should.


1. OneDirection - "Midnight Memories"

The Case: This is more debatable than it has any right to be. OneDirection put out a song called "Midnight Memories," which features the same massive guitar crunch as an older, more lascivious song called "Pour Some Sugar on Me." OneDirection is apparently looking to smutty '80s cock metal for inspiration now.

What Happened: Nothing yet, but apparently the still-touring boys of Def Leppard are "considering legal action."

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