Top 10 Hit Songs Stolen From Other Songs


Ever get Déjà Vu when you’re listening to the radio?  Kind of like you’ve heard the music somewhere before, but you can’t put your finger on it?  Usually, that’s because you have heard the music before and the song you’re listening to is sampling it.  “Sampling” is when you take a piece of one song and use it in yours.  It’s a legal thing, since the original artist gets money.

Except sometimes, they don’t.  That’s called “plagiarism” and, apparently, it’s a no-no.  Here are 10 songs you won’t believe were stolen from other songs.

10.  The Ghostbusters Theme

Quick, who ya gonna call?  If you didn’t answer “ghostBUSTAS”, you have no soul.  That line from the movie is as iconic as the Ghostbusters musical theme, which launched the career of Ray Parker Jr. and got itself stuck in everyone’s head for a decade.

Little known however, is that Ray Parker copied the beat from someone else.  That someone else was Huey Lewis and the News, an American band that was pretty popular in the 80’s.  What happened was that Ghostbusters film producers approached Huey Lewis to make their theme.  He respectfully declined since he was already working on the epic theme behind Back To The Future.  Instead, the music score job went to Ray Parker Jr., who accepted it without hesitation.  Both themes skyrocketed in popularity soon thereafter.

Unfortunately for Ray, Huey Lewis happened to hear the Ghostbuster’s theme because, well, who hadn’t?  He immediately lawyered up and sued the ass off Parker, claiming it sounded too much like their song, “I Want A New Drug”.  The song, which admittedly has a much better title than “The Ghostbuster’s Theme”, also sounds a hell like it, especially the guitar riff. Ray Parker Jr. was forced to settle out of court.

9.  Hips Don’t Lie

In 2006 we learned that Pluto was no longer a planet, and that Shakira’s hips did not indeed lie.  The song, released with Wyclef Jean for charity purposes, hit number 1 on the charts and, within days, dominated the radios all over America.  The key word here being America.  You see, in South America, a song had already hit the charts and done well that sounded a lot like Shakira’s.

It was called “Amores Como el Nuestro”, by popular salsa singer Jerry Riviera.  Jerry claimed that Shakira stole the trumpet beat from his song and used it in her hit single.  Jerry didn’t press charges, but made the allegations as public as possible; enough so that Shakira didn’t show up for Spain’s Academy of Arts and Sciences Awards (Spain’s Grammys). Entertainment outlets rumored that she was dodging questions about the plagiarism.

It doesn’t end there; a few weeks later another Spanish singer, Luis Dias, accused Shakira of stealing the refrain from one of his songs.  And then, Shakira was again accused of stealing lyrics from a popular carnival song sung by a one Fernando Villalona.  None of these artists pressed charges.

8.  Gladiator Theme

Chances are 90% of any modern theme for a movie, whether it’s The Dark Knight or Pirates of the Caribbean, is composed by a German guy named Hans Zimmer.  Hans Zimmer is very popular in the entertainment industry and one of the many movies he composed for was Gladiator.  Specifically, the song “The Battle”, which was such a masterpiece it was nominated for an Oscar.

Skip ahead to 2006, when the Holst Foundation apparently hears this song for the first time.  They decided that it sounded too much like Gustav Holst’s “Mars, Bringer of War” and so sued Hans Zimmer for copyright infringement.  Zimmer, of course, denied all the claims, but even critics reviewing the song heard the similarities. According to one review, “It has a pacing and sometimes a melody that is similar to Gustav Holst’s “Mars, Bringer of War”.

Unfortunately for our love of juicy gossip, whatever happened in court stayed in court and we’ll be forced to check if it was stolen ourselves.

7.  Come Together

“Come Together” is one of those songs that make you listen to what’s on today and shake your head in disappointment.  It’s the epitome of good Beatles music and the feelings behind the 70’s Occupy hippy movement.  Its beat is so pure that it’s been legally covered three times, each by other great bands like Aerosmith.  That’s why it’s shocking to hear that the song is so stolen, the Beatles acknowledged they stole it themselves.

In 1973, The Beatles were sued by Big Seven Music Corp which handled Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me”. They claimed that not only was the beat from “Come Together” just Berry’s song slowed down, the lyrics were also stolen.  For reference, the lyrics in question are John Lennon’s “Here come ol’ flattop, he come groovin’ up slowly” to Berry’s “Here come a flattop, he was movin’ up with me”.

Both parties settled out of court, but Lennon wasn’t done.  He vowed to record three more songs owned by Big Seven Music Corp.  Big Music responded politely by doing the same thing to John Lennon, releasing a series of unauthorized outtakes designed to embarrass Lennon.  When it was time to take the wreckage to court, both sides lawyered up in what must have been an epic legal showdown.  In the end, it was John Lennon that won, to the tune of 85 grand.

6.  Vogue

Vogue is one of Madonna’s most famous songs from the past.  Legend has it that Madonna was introduced to voguing by the NYC club “Sound Factory” and then she, independently and without ripping off anyone, made the song “Vogue”. Of course that’s how the story goes.  In reality, Madonna was thereafter sued for stealing the entire concept and beat of the song from another vogue-centric song called, “Deep in Vogue” by The Sex Pistols’ Malcolm McLaren.  Mal released his song in 1989, and Madonna released hers in 1990.

Unfortunately for Mal, Madonna’s single dominated the radio only one year after his own song peaked at number one.  Malcolm McLaren was himself at the center of many plagiarism controversies, and so he never got anything out of Madonna.  Nevertheless, the plagiarism is pretty apparent.

5.  Don’t Stop the Music/Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’

Quick!  What do Rihanna and Michael Jackson have in common?  If you answered, “they’re both black,” then congratulations!  You’re really racist!  The correct answer is one song- Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop The Music”.  The 2007 hit song samples Michael Jackson’s “Wanna be Startin’ Somethin’”, specifically the part when he goes, “Mamma see mama saw mama koosa”.  Apparently, plagiarism applies to gibberish too.  Or so claims the spectacularly named Manu Dibangu.

Dibangu released his own song way back in 1972 called “Soul Makoosa” which he claims is the original inspiration for Jackson’s 1983 song.  And although he’s in his 80’s, Manu had the strength to sue two big time musicians and get this…win.  The fault isn’t actually Mike’s, he sampled everything legally.  But when it came to transfer the rights to Rihanna, he screwed up.  You see, the rights weren’t his to transfer, so both Rihanna and Michael basically ripped off Manu Di-awesomename-bangu.

4.  Surfin’ USA

Back in the 60’s, who didn’t love the Beach Boys?  They embodied the laid-back, post-war spirit of America.  Women went crazy over them much like the way prepubescent girls of today drool over Justin Bieber.  So, keeping the Bieber analogy, imagine if we told you that Bieber stole one of his biggest hits from the Beach Boys.  Makes sense, right?  The Boys are one of the most influential and iconic bands of the past fifty years.  Well, if the Boys are that influential and iconic, what does that make the guy that they artistically burglarized?

Basically, Chuck Berry (yup, him again) got pretty pissed off when he heard “Surfin’ USA” on the radio one day.  It sounded way too much like his own song, “Sweet Little Sixteen”.  Like really, really close.  Close enough that, with some analysis, the Beach Boys’ song was a note-for-note rip-off of Chuck Berry’s song.  Naturally, Berry went bananas and lawyered up.  After a massive lawsuit, Chuck Berry was awarded a writing credit and royalties from the song.

But it doesn’t end there; the lyrics of the song were stolen from another song called, “Kissin’ Time” by Bobby Rydell.  There wasn’t a second lawsuit, though, probably because Rydell had actually borrowed a lot from Berry’s other songs when he made that hit.  And, as we’ve learned, never ever steal from Chuck Berry.

3.  Don’t Matter

Oh man, not Akon.  If you’ve read this far, you probably know how this will end: two men fighting in a pool filled with mayonnaise for some reason.  “Don’t Matter” was one of Akon’s first songs and was an immediate hit in the US, Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.  It was such a hit in fact, that it made it on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Songs of 2007 list.  For reference, it beat out Foo Fighter’s Grammy award winning “Pretender” by 15 places (32 versus 47).  Holy Jeez, it was probably an epic ballad or something, right?

Well, the reason it probably did well was because it had done well before.  Back when it was called “Ignition” and was song by R. Kelly.  R Kelly’s song also dominated Europe and Australia, years before Akon was a thing.  Which is why fans were quick to note the similarities in the two and called bulls*** faster than the janitor at an all cow’s bar.  As of now, no legal action has been taken by anybody, which is kind of sad.  On the upside, Akon also stole the lyrics from Bob Marley’s classic, “Zimbabwe,” just to make sure he pissed all of his fans off.

2.  Girlfriend

Avril Lavigne, the girlfriend you can never ever have, reinvented the world of mainstream pop rock in 2002 with her debut single, “Complicated”.  Despite being Canadian, she’s managed to stay relevant for the past 10 years.  And she’s on this list, which can only can one thing which can only mean one thing: she’s a big ‘ol thief.

Her 2007 chart-topper “Girlfriend”, contains lyrics that, holy Hell, are a lot like the Rubinoos’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.”  Lavigne staunchly defended her song, despite being dragged into court by Rubinoos Founder, Tommy Dunbar.  According to her, “Girlfriend” was merely similar to “Boyfriend”, just like it was similar to the Rolling Stones, and there was no plagiarism.  Unfortunately, the court didn’t agree and she was forced to settle out of court before things became messy.  And messy court proceedings are, like, so whatever.

1.  Are You Gonna Be My Girl

When Jet released “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”, everyone was certain that they would be the next Green Day.  The rock song was just perfect, capturing both the radio and the rock crowds while providing a song that made you want to get up and dance.  So when people started hearing the similarities between that and Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”, calls of blasphemy went around.  Jet got a steamy pile of bad press and everyone waited to see if Iggy Pop would press charges.  He didn’t, and Jet frontman Cameron Muncey had to go on air and call the whole thing off.

That would have been it, had it not been for the fact there are multiple songs that sound like Jet’s.  The most popular one would have to be “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes; that song, incidentally, was likely ripped off by…Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”.  The whole thing comes full circle.  Whether they really ripped off so many bands or if this is all one big music conspiracy is unknown since no one apparently has lawyers here.  I guess we’ll have to check ourselves.

Mohammed Shariff can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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  1. Just because it couldn’t be proved in court doesn’t make it not true. Do you have any idea how many old black blues musicians got ripped off for their songs and could never get a penny because they couldn’t afford to continue to fight against big companies? That doesn’t make it right.

    Besides which, Laveen’s music is for morons, she’s a talentless hack and deserves all the flack she gets. And if you are talking about accuracy, Fox is considered the most trusted by a vast majority of the public. You are probably thinking of MSNBC, which is trust by less than 10% of the people who bother to watch, the kind of people who still think obama is jesus jr. and will save the world. The rest of us tried to tell you in 2008. Like Mike Moore said, besides being totally incompetent, the only thing obama will ever be remembered for is being black.

  2. If somebody listens to a lot of one artist’s music, it would only seem to make sense that what they write will be similar to what they grew up listening to. If you move to England, you will start to sound British. Intentional or not, it will happen. If Jay-Z would listen to the Beatles for 2 hours a day, I bet his songs would start to sound like the Beatles next year. Just don’t try it with Chuck Berry songs.

  3. What about Tell him by Colbie Caillat and Die in your arms by Justin Bieber – original from We’ve got a good thing going by Michael Jackson …

  4. Listen to Country Boy by Aaron Lewis and Rockstar by Nickleback – VERY much the same. Also, most of John Williams’ movie themes are taken from classical works

  5. You say that Lust For Life was ripped off, but Lust For Life was actually a massive ripoff of Bo Diddley’s song called, simply, Bo Diddley. Iggy Pop is just one of numerous artists who ripped off that song, but it’s one of the most highly profiled.