Every artist "steals" a little, whether they realize it or not. For instance, we talk about how some musician was "influenced" by music they grew up with, even if sometimes that influence consists of outright stealing and/or barely remixing a classic. That's just the way it works.
But sometimes, it's even more blatant than that. In fact, some of the most successful musical acts in history based huge chunks of their careers entirely on plagiarism. Like...
Led Zeppelin are remembered for two things: banging a groupie with a mudshark and recording songs that rocked harder than any band had ever rocked before. Too bad a bunch of that shit was stolen.
Don't believe us? Well, here's a whole laundry list of songs they stole; but if the words of a dawn-of-the-Internet era website aren't enough to convince you, consider their classic song "Dazed and Confused."
A young Jake Holmes played a song of the same name (and chords, and lyrics kind of) at a show in 1967 where he was opening for The Yardbirds, who featured--say it with us!-- Jimmy Page on guitar. "Dazed and Confused" became a mainstay of The Yardbirds live sets and eventually found its way onto Zep's 1969 debut album, where it was credited to... nobody. Holmes never took legal action but he did eventually send Page a letter asking for acknowledgement and maybe a little gas money if he could spare it (he could). The letter went unanswered.
But who cares, right? We're talking about Led Zeppelin here. The band who wrote "Stairway to Heaven" man! It's the most popular song in the history of sound! It's the song that was playing on the van stereo when your father shot the load that would become you into your mother's moist and eager lady parts! That one song is enough to secure the legacy of 10 bands!
Too bad they jacked that shit too. The opening notes (and easily the most recognizable part) of "Stairway" were taken almost note-for-note from a song called "Taurus" by Spirit.
How did nobody notice that? Because nobody knows who the hell Spirit is. But for the record, Led Zeppelin opened for Spirit on their first U.S. tour, so it's safe to assume they were familiar with the band. Repaying an opening spot on a tour of the States by stealing a guitar riff is sad, but what's even sadder is that Spirit's guitarist, the awesomely named Randy California, knew exactly where "Stairway to Heaven" came from but was too nice of a guy to say anything - he just wanted them to say "Thank you."
They never did.
If you don't know who the Black Eyed Peas are, you're either a time traveler or have recently woken up from a coma (and in either case, congratulations!). The rest of you already know how insanely successful they are, despite having some of the worst music imaginable. What you probably don't know is that very little of that music is actually theirs.
For instance, a young rapper named Phoenix Phenom recently accused the Peas of ripping off her song "Boom Dynamite" and calling it "Boom Boom Pow." On the one hand, the only similarities are with the beat and the "boom boom" part. On the other hand, the beat and the "boom boom" part is as much of the Black Eyed Peas that we can listen to before our souls begin to atrophy.
In hip-hop, there are two schools of thought when it comes to sampling. Some people follow the P. Diddy method, which does involve spending a fuck-ton of money, but the upside is you get to take a huge, steaming, shiny-suited shit all over pretty much any beloved song of your choosing. But it's not for everybody. The Vanilla Ice method of blatantly stealing a song and hoping nobody notices may work better for the cash strapped.
Apparently, the Black Eyed Peas are an impoverished bunch. Shortly after they released the song "Party All the Time," a band called Freeland suddenly realized that their song "Mancry" had been sampled--unfortunately, the Peas had neglected to inform them of this fact.
We tried to chalk all this up to an overworked will.i.am, who "makes" most of the beats for the group. Writing original songs is hard enough, imagine having to do it while also balancing the daunting task of finding something for those two weirdoes who aren't Fergie to do. But no, even solo they can't be trusted. For instance, back in 2007 will.i.am grabbed a hefty chunk of Daft Punk's "Around the World" (without asking) to use in his first single. For some reason, Daft Punk wasn't too happy about the whole deal.
But by far the worst example of song plagiarism is Fergie's hit single "Fergalicious," which is pretty much just J. J. Fad's "Supersonic" with slightly altered lyrics and a remarkably amped up realization that you're listening to all that is wrong with music when you hear it.
This isn't sampling so much as stealing an entire goddamn song, and since (as usual) the original artists got screwed over, Fergie's now facing a lawsuit of her own.
A band so hardcore they have the word "metal" in their name, Metallica is probably the most influential rock group in the last 30 years. What's odd, though, is that they've managed to be so influential without actually cranking out very many original songs at all. Check out "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)," as compared to Bleak House's "Rainbow Warrior":
If there was any doubt in your mind that "Sanitarium" was a rip-off, James Hetfield confirmed it in an interview, although he said that the band in question "shall remain anonymous." Just the kind of dickhead statement we've come to expect from Metallica over the years, but it doesn't end there.
Sharp-eared YouTubers have spotted several more suspicious songs, like "My Apocalypse," "End of the Line" and "The Day that Never Comes" that were stolen from The Offspring, Pearl Jam and Joe Satriani respectively. There's also one that alleges "The Unforgiven II" was a rip-off of Iron Maiden's "Children of the Damned"; but that's just ludicrous! The truth is, both of those songs are actually stolen from Jimi Hendrix's "1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be) ." And then there's the one Metallica song that even your grandmother loves, "Enter Sandman."
Office spreadsheet pioneers, Excel, found out way after the fact that "Enter Sandman" was a quite shameless rip-off of their absurdly titled "Tapping into the Emotional Void." Kind of adds a whole new twist of irony to that Napster fiasco, yeah?