Did the Foo Fighters Rip off Ronnie James Dio for their New Single?

Ooo boy. Here we go again. Whenever someone somewhere perceives melodic or structural similarities between a new song and an older one, there are bound to be cries of plagiarism. The last has fingers pointing at the Foo Fighters for ripping off Ronnie James Dio for their new song, “Something from Nothing.”

Let’s compare, shall we? You be the judge.

First, Dio’s “Holy Diver” from 1983. Pay attention to the riffing that starts at the 48 second mark.

And now, “Something for Nothing.” The contentious bit comes in at about 1:30 into the song.

I’d say that the riffs are similar, but so what? The entire Dio song is built around that riff while in the Foos track, it consists of just one part of the song’s second movement and a modified version as the song progress into is third and four movements.

Was this deliberate? Doubtful. When you accuse someone of plagiarism, you’re saying that someone deliberately took material created by someone else with the fraudulent intent of passing it off as their own.  I this case, no one stole anything. The Foo Fighters did not seek to pass off a Dio riff as their own.  This is just one of those odd sonic coincidences that happen from time to time where two artists independently discover a similar musical passage or figure. After all, there are just so many notes and so many chord progressions that work in rock’n’roll, so there’s bound to be moments of duplication.

In other words, there’s no controversy here, people. Move along.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

10 thoughts on “Did the Foo Fighters Rip off Ronnie James Dio for their New Single?

  • October 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm
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    So basically you’re saying that it can’t be plagiarism because coincidence happens and not for all the valid reasons it could or could not be actual plagiarism?
    Screw this, I’m leaving.

    Reply
  • October 22, 2014 at 12:38 am
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    For all your interview credits, Alan- you don’t understand music and your argument, while applicable to many scenarios is not to this one . This wasn’t stumbled upon. It was either subconscious plagiarism or a tribute. Grohl is too aware of Dio for it to be anything else.

    Reply
    • October 22, 2014 at 8:06 am
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      At this moment, we have to assume that the Foos are innocent until proven guilty. There are other scenarios, too. For example, although unknown to the general public, side deals are often made between artists, labels and music publishers when certain melodic similarities between two different songs are discovered. Those proactive deals fend off any possible litigation.

      The other thing we haven’t seen are the liner notes and song credits for “Something from Nothing.” Just like the deal Coldplay cut with Kraftwerk over the song “Talk,” it’s possible that Dio’s people will be cut in with a songwriting credit or some other acknowledgement.

      Again, my position is that “plagiarism” is a very serious charge to make. It’s a criminal thing. I just can’t see an organization as large and as well-run as the Foo Fighters deliberately ripping off anyone.

      Reply
  • October 22, 2014 at 10:42 am
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    I don’t think it’s a coicindence. I think Dave paid homage to Dio by throwing that in there. He is an unapologetic fan of 80s metal, and his Probot album from a few years back proves that. I would guarantee that he knew exactly what he was doing and I think he put that little riff in there to pay tribute.

    It’s no different than Extreme did on Warheads when Nuno put a couple of bars Purple Haze on the end of his solo. Bands do this stuff all the time.

    It’s not like when Coldplay added lyrics to Computer Leibe by Kraftwerk and called it Talk.

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  • October 22, 2014 at 10:39 pm
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    Regarding the uber-plagiarizing Coldplay:

    Don’t forget about their plagiarizing of Joe Satriani as well. Given these PROVEN facts, I’m surprised that they have the guts to show their faces.

    Were it me or my band that was plagiarizing – and then that fact be PROVEN, as is the case w/Chris Martin/Coldplay (maybe that was why GP dumped his ass, huh?) – I would have killed the band and disappeared due to abject embarrassment.

    The fact that neither of these things have happened proves to me, at least, that Chris Martin has ZERO character/shame, but is also a talentless hack, a cheating git and deserves to be sued into abject poverty, where he so richly belongs, period.

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  • October 22, 2014 at 10:45 pm
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    Oh and as for the “riffage” in question? I believe that it was done on purpose, as the basis of the song, based on Grohl in his new HBO Doc series “Sonic Highways”, “Something From Nothing” is a “tribute” to all the great musicians who’ve inspired not only himself and his music, but countless others just like him.

    Going back to Chris Martin/Coldplay plagiarizing, they were outright blatant about it. In “Something From Nothing”, it’s ONE measure of those chords/progressions, repeated and is NOT the root melody for the song, unlike the two PROVEN cases of Chris Martin/Coldplay and their plagiarizing.

    Apples & oranges, here, people.

    Reply
  • November 19, 2014 at 9:17 am
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    The author presents his opinions as fact, and consequently makes himself look not too sharp. 🙂

    Reply
  • December 24, 2014 at 1:43 am
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    that isnt the half of it- wanna see the real ripoff? The beginning of the song- listen. also when the drums come in. Then listen to my song “pandora please”. it’s a DIRECT ripoff. Mine copyrighted 4 years ago and freely available online. It’s almost note-for-note exact. Key, chord progression, arpeggios, drum beat identical, the lead guitar over the guitar after drums come in on both- exact. you be the judge: http://www.billlittlemusic.com I’m considering taking action it’s closer than the dio rip..comments please!

    Reply

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