7 Famous Musicians Who Stole Some of Their Biggest Hits

#3. The Strokes


This spunky New York City band reinvented rock music much the same way Green Day did in the '90s. Translation: They played the same music that people before them had been playing for decades, but somehow convinced the public that what they were doing was fresh and new. Some people refer to it as "The Nirvana Effect," a term coined by us just now in this sentence.

Much like Oasis before them, they kicked off their career by pilfering a stone cold classic. This time, the victim was Tom Petty. Check out the Strokes' hit single "Last Night":

And now, have a listen to Tom Petty's "American Girl":

If you hated listening to that Strokes song, you'll really hate us for not mentioning that you only needed to listen to the first 30 seconds or so. That's where most of the thievery takes place. That instantly recognizable opening riff from "American Girl" was pretty much copied note for note by the Strokes.

If for some reason you think ripping off Tom Petty is something only your dad would consider doing, wait until you hear who else the Strokes have turned to for "inspiration." Many critics noticed that the Strokes' "Razorblade" bears a striking resemblance to "Mandy" by freaking Barry Manilow. Also, we sincerely apologize for the wall of text in that link, let "Ctrl+F" be your guide if you're the fact-checking type. Or if reading isn't your thing, listen to the nearly identical choruses of each song right here.

Ripping off Barry Manilow makes Oasis ripping off a Coke commercial seem like a total gangster move. Their hipster cred isn't helped by the fact that they also robbed Henry Mancini:

That said, we'd be downright floored if "The Peter Gunn Theme" isn't the coolest Henry Mancini song of all time, so at least they have that working in their favor.

#2. John Williams


Right off the bat, if any casual fans are reading this and wondering who in the hell John Williams is, there's only one thing you need to know. He composed the ridiculously iconic Star Wars theme. And you know what? When you're working in a medium like classical music, borrowing from other artists isn't all that unheard of. Hans Zimmer, the man behind several recent scores for Hollywood blockbusters, does it all the time. He even admitted to sampling a Gustav Holst piece on his score for Gladiator.

But the thing about John Williams is that he wins tons of awards for his thievery. To add a nice twist of irony, those awards often come in the "Best Original Score" category. Take the Jaws theme, for example. He took home the Best Original Score Oscar for that famous "Dun dun, dun dun" sound that we've all come to associate with impending danger (specifically, the danger of being eaten by a cartoonishly large shark). Meanwhile, the classical musician who came up with it first is spinning in his grave. Check out John Williams' theme back to back with Dvorak's Symphony No. 9:

That's what's often referred to as "damning evidence" on the episodes of Matlock that currently occupy every inch of space on our office DVR.

But what about that Star Wars theme? Surely he must have come up with that on his own, right? The guy took home an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA award, a Grammy award and a Saturn award for that score. We're pretty sure he would've won an ESPY, too, if they were around back then. There's no way such universal praise would be heaped on something that was clearly "borrowed" from someone else. Well, in a perfect world, that would probably be the case. But the world isn't perfect, and the Star Wars theme was a straight-up jack move. Those iconic sounds first appeared way back in the black and white days on the theme from Kings Row. Behold the evidence:

The prosecution rests. And yes, we learned that phrase from watching Matlock also.

#1. Madonna


Something funny happened on Madonna's way to being hailed as a music innovator. That funny thing being, of course, that the people who have bestowed that title upon her like to conveniently ignore the fact that she steals songs like a crackhead supporting her drug habit by recording hit songs. We'd love to give you a rundown of each and every song she's been accused of jacking, but as you can see from this list, it would take us a minimum of three full articles to do that.

The most obvious rip-off of Madonna's career also doubles as one of the most obvious rip-offs of all time. Check out the similarities between Madonna's "Justify My Love" and Public Enemy's "Security of the First World":

Stealing from Public Enemy back during their badass heyday was a pretty bold move. Almost as bold as, well, suing Madonna. That's exactly what Public Enemy did, taking the pop legend for everything that massive hit earned her, which was somewhere in the neighborhood of "an undisclosed sum."

And that's all the excuse we need to post a picture of Flavor Flav.

To make matters worse, that wasn't the only lawsuit that stemmed from this one song. A poet named Ingrid Chavez, after hearing "Justify My Love," couldn't help but notice something strange. Specifically, she noticed that she wrote the damn lyrics. So, we stand corrected, Public Enemy didn't get everything that Madonna earned for that song. Chavez sued also and was awarded a writing credit and (we're assuming) a massive amount of royalties.

Madonna didn't limit her plagiarism to just songs, either. She's been accused of ripping off music videos from a crap load of people. In fact, anywhere you look, whether it be album covers or even her eccentric style, Madonna seems to be continuously in some kind of plagiarism scandal, with a ridiculous 15 plagiarism lawsuits to her credit so far.

"Thanks, assholes!"

Who knew being one of the biggest pop stars ever could be so easy?

And who knew Cracked could make the best live-action Star Wars series since...whenever the last GOOD Star Wars movie came out.

Mohammed Shariff is a freelance writer and can be followed here and added here.

For more unoriginal creations that you cherish, check out 7 Classic Movies You Didn't Know Were Rip-Offs and 5 Famous Inventors (Who Stole Their Big Idea).

And stop by LinkSTORM to discover which columnist is stealing Jack O'Brien's Skittles.

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