Pop-lifting (Part 2): Avril, Rod and Bob Marley Found Guilty

Welcome to another segment of the widely tolerated “Poplifting” feature, wherein we like to demonstrate our vast (or at least half-vast) knowledge of pop history’s musical pickpockets. Let’s point some incriminating fingers!

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avril rubinoos

“Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne lifted from “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” by The Rubinoos lifted from “Get Off My Cloud” by The Rolling Stones

When power pop band The Rubinoos filed a claim against Avril Lavigne and her “Girlfriend” cowriter/producer Dr. Luke, saying her 2007 hit ripped off their 1979 song, Lavigne responded by saying she’d never heard their song before. Although her claim seems plausible (she wasn’t even born till five years after its release) there had been two cover versions in 1990 and 1996 that she certainly could have come across. And it’s not like music from 1979 didn’t exist on CD in 2007…

Be that as it may, Lavigne was exonerated in court despite the opinion of prominent music critics that her song is a total lift from the Rubinoos’. In Lavigne’s defense her manager pointed out that The Rubinoos song itself seems to borrow from the Rolling Stones’ “Get Off My Cloud”. Certainly a case can be made that there were two incidents of poplifting here:

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roots drifters

 “Let’s Live For Today” by The Grass Roots lifted from “I Count the Tears” by The Drifters

Legendary songwriters Pomus and Shuman had their hook hooked for a song recorded originally by The Rokes in 1966, then taken to #8 by The Grass Roots the following year.

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rod jorge

 “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” by Rod Stewart lifted from “Taj Mahal” by Jorge Ben

Jorge Ben, Brazilian musician and writer of the classic “Mas Que Nada”, didn’t take kindly to Rod Stewart’s unauthorized use of a melody from his “Taj Mahal”, a song Rod surely had opportunity to hear as the 1972 song was popular in London clubs. Ben sued for copyright infringement and the case was settled amicably with all future royalties from “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” going to UNICEF. Stewart has admitted to “unconscious plagiarism” in the matter.

Jorge Ben added “Jor” to his name, becoming Jorge Benjor, supposedly in response to an incident where some of his royalties went to George Benson.

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berry jordan

“Roll Over Beethoven”, “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry lifted from “Ain’t That Just Like a Woman” by Louis Jordan

Chuck Berry, as we learned in the last post on this subject, is the true originator, the one everybody cribs from…right? Well, yes. But he’s also a guy who recycled that signature riff a lot. And, oh yeah–he wasn’t the first to use that now-famous guitar intro, the one that rang in the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. The first three samples you’ll hear in this clip are the intros to Chuck’s “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Johnny B. Goode” respectively. The fourth is the intro from Louis Jordan’s “Ain’t That Just Like a Woman”. It’s from 1946. Call it rock ‘n’ roll’s false start.

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marley splits

“Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley lifted from “The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)” by The Banana Splits

I know. It doesn’t get any more unlikely than this. But maybe not–Marley did spend about half of 1969 living with his mother in Delaware, his wife and young kids with him. Seems almost likely he’d be exposed to Bingo, Drooper, Snorky and Fleegle and their Saturday morning Adventure Hour (if you’re too young to know who the Banana Splits were, think The Monkees in animal costumes. If you’re too young to know The Monkees, ask your mum).

Why he’d copy their song is another story. I’m thinking this is another case of “unconscious plagiarism”. A pretty funny one. To my knowledge, Fleegle and company took no legal action.

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