Music is about creativity and hard work. However, some of the greatest that have graced the screens also seemed to have been hard at work, sorting through songs that they would still perform. You would think that would be a cheap shot, but it is even cheaper when you come to realize that the biggest hits from your favorite stars were actually stolen records.
Even the biggest names find it hard to keep their hands out of the cookie jar, and unfortunately, their behavior earned them some big pay days. Here are some of the biggest names who were thrust into the limelight by stolen songs that they made better and then took credit for writing them.
Number Five: Green Day. You must be puzzled. I mean, do you need to steal a song in a genre where drums and craziness dominate the larger part of the song? Well, Green Day has really flourished at this and even earned themselves a name as the greatest punk band in the world today – courtesy of the sweat of other people. You could say that Green Day are part-time thieves, considering the fact that their last three studio albums all feature songs that sound too similar and suspicious.
Remember in the 2000s when Green Day was virtually dead? Well, that was until they released the song “American Idiot,” which earned them massive respect and new fans. Well, this was the case for the fans that had not heard of a lesser heard of punk band that was called the Dillinger Four. Even though they had the audacity to change the name of the song from the original “Double Whiskey Coke Noise” to “American Idiot,” pretty much everything else was left as it was. And the shenanigans do not end there. There are a plethora of other songs that Green Day have gotten their hands on. But then again, it is all about working smart and not working hard.
Number Four: Johnny Cash. Jonny Cash might not be the modern-day Blake Shelton, but in his day, he would have given him a run for his money (even though this might be questionable, considering that one of his biggest songs was back in 1955). While other country artists were gloating of how hard they had been left out to dry by their wives, Cash was introducing the true gangster spirit by singing about how he was shooting people just to watch them die. Well, seems he borrowed a string from that as it soon emerged that his ’55 single, “Folsom Prison Blues,” was actually not his creation. The song had been released in 1953 by Gordon Jenkins and Beverly Mahr, and it was known as “Crescent City Blues” at the time.
Well, you could applaud Cash for bringing the song to the limelight and giving it some life compared to the original version, considering the fact that Cash sang and performed the song for 14 years before the original composer of the song heard him perform it on TV and brought in the L-word. At this point, in fear of going to court, Cash quietly paid off Jenkins and swept the matter under the carpet. Talk about a country outlaw!
Number Three: The Beatles. The Beatles are quite the shameless act, and they have been accused of a great deal of copyrighted material. The most notable is Bobby Parker’s “Watch Your Step,” which The Beatles called “I Feel Fine.” They went on to later admit of their wrong-doing (well, kind of, considering the term used at the time was “was influenced by”). They also confessed to have blind-sided the Isley Brothers of their song, “From Me to You.”
Number Two: Madonna. Why would a woman that had so many hits of her own result to stealing? Well, that is the side effect of success. Once you have it, you want more. Madonna joins this list of shame as the most notable person, given that her rip-offs were also among the most obvious of all time, which is perhaps testament to her lack of creativity at the time. The greatest similarity is between Madonna’s “Justify My Love” and “Security of the First World” by Public Enemy. The only problem was that while Madonna did this, Public Enemy were also a badass act at the time. As a result, they sued the lights out of her, taking almost everything that the song earned. Talk about karma.
Number One: Michael Jackson. Drum roll, please! Wait! Before you start hailing stones, MJ did not actually steal a song, but whatever he did – as you are about to find out – was the same as stealing a song. Now back to the drum roll. Remember everything that you loved about Michael Jackson’s performances – the moon walk, the dance moves and even the gloves and the hat? Now that you remember, neither of those actually belonged to the King of Pop. For the moon walk, it was first seen on Soul Train, and Jackson hired all of the dancers on the show to teach him the moon walk for about three days.
As for the other moves, they were all quite the steal from the movie The Little Prince, in which actor Bob Fosse used the moves and the looks to entice a little boy to commit murder. The only unique thing about Jackson’s case is that none of these were copyrighted, and therefore, cannot be considered as having been stolen but more of an inspiration. At least, you know where all the greatness came from now, right?
It’s a shame to know that some of the songs that you have adored for a long time were actually stolen, but then again, if it were not for this despicable act, you probably would have never heard of them. However, this should not be an excuse for musicians to steal other people’s work!