Ongoing History Daily: The beat of “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”

In 2003, Jet was a new Australian band with a debut album entitled Get Born. The first single was “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” which was introduced by a drumbeat that sounded very familiar.

“Hey!” people said, “You’re ripping off ‘Lust for Life’ by Iggy Pop! Someone should sue!”

Well, hang on. A couple of things. First of all, drumbeats are considered universal elements of music and not subject to copyright. If they were, even a simple 4/4 disco beat would be subjected to legal action. Second, when Iggy and David Bowie were writing “Lust for Life,” they were copying a rhythm they heard on American Armed Forces Radio—and they were also inspired by songs from the 60s like the The Supremes’ “Can’t Hurry Love.”

And that song borrowed from a Bo Diddley riff from the 50s. And Diddley copied a ton of other songs for, including a folk tradition called “hambone”—which itself probably originated with Yorba drumming from West Africa that dates back centuries.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

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