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Classic Rock Artists Who (Allegedly) Ripped Somebody Off

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Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Musicians appropriate ideas from everywhere, sometimes to the point where a court of law calls it stealing. Over the years, these thefts have been described as a form of tribute or as an accident of creation. Whatever you call it, this form of borrowing is far from infrequent.

As the above list of Classic Rock Artists Who (Allegedly) Ripped Somebody Off shows, legends from across the spectrum have found themselves accused of plagiarism dating back to the early ’60s. A few have been able to fight off the charges, while others ended up having to share credit and royalties. But even after major verdicts featuring artists like the Beatles and Rolling Stones, the practice shows no signs of abating.

“What do they say? ‘A good artist borrows, a great artist steals’ – or something like that,” Paul McCartney told Guitar Player in 1990. “That makes the Beatles great artists, because we stole a lot of stuff.”

In truth, taking this kind of creative license traces far back into our shared human history. Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner” is set to an old English melody; “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” actually uses the same melody as the United Kingdom’s national anthem.

“There’s only one song in the world,” Keith Richards told the Independent in 2010, “and Adam and Eve wrote it.”

This list focuses on those times when classic rockers perhaps pilfered an idea, rather than when those roles were reversed. The likes of Vanilla Ice (“Ice Ice Baby” vs. David Bowie and Queen‘s “Under Pressure”) – not to mention the Marvin Gaye estate’s explosive suit against Robin Thicke for “Blurred Lines” – will have to be sorted out elsewhere.

Next: 7 Infamous Classic Rock Lawsuits

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