It’s tough being a songwriter today. There’s only so many ways the Western musical scale can be put together to create pleasing melodies. It’s getting tougher and tougher to be 100% original. No one sets out to copy another songwriter’s work. Occasionally, a younger songwriter will unknowingly uncover a melody that’s was claimed by someone else long ago. And when someone points out these similarities, legal issues ensue.
This is not plagiarism. That requires malice of forethought. With nowhere to hide in today’s Internet-connected universe, why would anyone dare to publicly rip off someone else? It makes no sense. That’s why I prefer to call these situations “unfortunate sonic coincidences.” And it happens to the best of them. George Harrison. Coldplay. Noel Gallagher (okay, so many be was a little more blatant).
The latest person to be ensnared in such a controversy is Sam Smith. At issue is his 2014 worldwide smash, “Stay with Me”…
…and Tom Petty’s 1989 hit, “I Won’t Back Down.”
Pretty similar, yes? Petty’s lawyers launched a challenge and have successfully wrested away 12.5% of the songwriting credit for “Stay With Me.” What was once just a Sam Smith/Jimmy Napes/William Phillips composition now features credits for Petty, Jeff Lynne (of ELO).
The full story at Consequence of Sound.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Tom Petty isn’t up for a Grammy as a result of this settlement.