You only need to spend a few minutes on YouTube to see hundreds of music videos that bear striking resemblances to popular hits. On the surface, it would be hard to tell which song is which – but that’s often where the issue ends. There are many cases when musicians are accused of plagiarism and end up having their entire careers overturned.
Not all plagiarism is unsightly, but in the music industry (where many songs are not just similar in their music but are openly plagiarized), it happens. This article lists seven scandals and epic cases of music plagiarism, so check them out!
1. Elvis Presley (songwriter)
Elvis Presley is best remembered for some of the enduring hits with which he was most popular, like “Hound Dog.” He became a household name in 1954 and went on to have his first number one hit in 1957. Unfortunately for Presley, it only took about five months for him to reach great heights before falling immensely hard—to the point where today there’s a national day of celebration celebrating his career achievements.
It is easy to forget just how many great artists have tread the tainted waters of plagiarism, but then again, this is just a life fact. Elvis Presley admitted his musical crimes in a televised news conference at the height of his fame. There were no repercussions for this act, though in 2017 he appears to have taken responsibility for the crime because he seemed uncomfortable watching the aired re-enactment made ten years ago.
2. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder was accused of plagiarizing two songs in his 1973 album, Innervisions, one from jazz artist Oscar Brashear, the second from Folk artist Len Chandler. Stevie Wonder did not comment on whether he cheated his talent by lifting music from others. One of Stevie Wonder’s most famous songs, “Isn’t She Lovely”, has a text- in itself widely believed to have been the work of a ghost writer. Some felt the song would have sounded different if he had been the one singing it.
3. Johnny Cash (Diamon Ring album)
The 2009 album Diamond Ring was released by Johnny Cash featuring classic re-recordings of numerous songs including “Unchained Melody,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and “A Boy named Sue.” Within weeks of its release, it quickly sold over two million copies in America alone. Two years later, the record and many others that had been released from his estate were removed from stores after allegations of plagiarism and misappropriation of content emerged.
Johnny Cash’s “Diamond Ring” track was released as a single in 1980. It had previously been written and sung by Jerry Reed in 1978. Johnny Cash sampled the song. While both the composers and the copyright holders scrutinized his decision, many considered this an obvious plagiarism of their work. In February 2010, twelve years after releasing the song, Johnny Cash admitted that it took inspiration from “Hank Snow Fever” written by Adil Wilder and Milton Brown.
4. Charlie Parker & Duke Ellington (78 master recordings called The Duke Ellington)
This case of plagiarism ostracized the two men and dealt a financial blow that cost them both their dominance in jazz. Disgrace was quickly replaced by newfound fame after Charlie Parker said “I never have and never will write a note or a phrase that I don’t use.” Down Beat magazine accused Parker of being an “unquestionable plagiarist who pulls off the same kind of trick with almost every song.” They also called Ellington “a man without one single creative impulse.” The musicians’ careers were ended after a round-up of their alleged thievery.
David was a famous American singer who was discovered and recruited by Steven Spielberg to record Dvorak’s Opus 7. In an effort to introduce him more, the movie Swing Shift during his performance of “Somewhere” borrows from his own version. David Bowie was accused of plagiarizing his own recordings on 7 out of the 10 songs from a soundtrack he produced for the 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth.
David Foster played a few bad gigs on his way to becoming one of the foremost PR guys in music. Yep, it all started in high school where he was accused of plagiarism for blog posts. You guessed it: David had copied stuff from here and there and threw it together into what he thought was a well-written essay, blog post or even musical composition — and he found success.
In any case, were he smart, David could’ve used an online plagiarism checker with report to make sure his work wasn’t copied or cloned. Friendly advice, if you’re in school and are looking for plagiarism check with percentage, make sure you pick one that also includes an editing with no plagiarism feature. And whatever you do, always check your work for plagiarism. s
6. Bob Dylan
The song that Bob Dylan tore from the pages of a magazine, cut and glued together then re-created entitled “Tombstone Blues”, was not made up. That song was made up of parts of a few different lyrics written by him, so this was not in fact a case of plagiarism.
Plagiarism is a controversial issue for musicians and those who take music seriously. Their faith, thoughts, feelings, and creativity are usually at risk when they plagiarize someone else’s music. It is difficult to avoid plagiarism if you go into the industry because musicians tend to copy from each other (due to peer pressure), which can cause someone to plagiarize in an effort to keep up with their peers.