Women in Music 2016
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Our Fantasy Sam Smith/Tom Petty Copyright-Infringement Grammy Medley: 'Stay With Me,' 'My Sweet Lord' and More
On Jan. 26, Sam Smith's rep acknowledged that the songwriting credits of the singer's Grammy-nominated hit "Stay With Me" now include Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, writers of Petty's "I Won't Back Down," via an "immediate and amicable agreement" owing to similarities between the songs that were a "complete coincidence."
With Smith scheduled to perform at the Grammys ceremony on Feb. 8, the timing seems perfect for him and Petty to sing what would doubtless be the worst medley in Grammy history, mashing up those two songs with several other famous allegedly copyright-infringing hits. Below are some other contested songs they could include:
Huey Lewis & the News "I Want a New Drug" (1983) / Ray Parker Jr. "Ghostbusters" (1984) • While the similarities between these two songs lie mostly in the bassline and verses, Lewis sued Parker in 1984 and reached a settlement the following year that was termed amicable, at least until Lewis talked about the case on VH1's "Behind the Music" (resulting in a confidentiality-breach lawsuit from Parker). Just imagine Smith going falsetto on the "Ghostbusters" synth hook.
Joe Satriani "If I Could Fly" (2004) / Coldplay "Viva La Vida" (2008) • "If there are any similarities between our two pieces of music, they are entirely coincidental, and just as surprising to us as to him," Coldplay said in a statement about this lawsuit, which was settled quietly in 2009. It's hard to imagine Chris Martin as a fan of Satriani's proto-metal guitar wankery, but the chord progression and chorus are unmistakably similar (and Petty's virtuoso guitarist Mike Campbell could even make Satriani sound good …)
The Chiffons "He's So Fine" (1962) / George Harrison "My Sweet Lord" (1971) • This, the granddaddy of all copyright-infringement cases, dragged on for five years before Petty's fellow Traveling Wilbury was found guilty of "subconscious plagiarism" -- a judge called the songs "virtually identical" -- and paid a substantial sum to publisher Bright Tunes.
Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" (2013)/ Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" (1977) • The jury's still out on this one: in fact, the trial to decide whether these songs are similar enough to transcend the usual sheet-music litmus test starts on Feb. 10. And we won't even contemplate a reprise of what happened the last time "Blurred Lines" was performed at an awards show.
An edited version of this article first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of Billboard.