Springsteen Says Rockers Are Thieves: Five Songs You May Not Know Were Stolen

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Courtesty SXSW
Springsteen at South-By
Last Thursday, Bruce Springsteen made the keynote speech at South By Southwest. He was funny, he was heartfelt, he was informative and -- dang, Boss! -- he was ridiculously honest. So honest in fact, that he picked up a guitar, played the opening riff from The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of this Place," and then followed it immediately with the opening riff of his own "Badlands," before laughing "Listen up youngsters! This is how successful theft is accomplished!"

Ol' Brucey is not the first to steal a riff, of course, and he won't be the last. We love that he had the good grace to admit it, though. So, in his honor, let's take a look at some other relatively recent examples of blatant musical thievery. (FYI: We will not be discussing Lady Gaga pilfering from Madonna's back catalog today because it's too obvious -- apologies for any disappointment caused).

The White Stripes' "I Can't Wait" (Stolen from Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box")



It's a testament to the niceness of Dave Grohl that Meg and Jack White didn't get sued over "I Can't Wait." The former White Stripes are also lucky that Courtney Love is apparently too busy in and out of court with a bunch of other people to have even noticed this. If you have a copy of Nirvana's In Utero and a copy of White Stripes' White Blood Cells on your iPod, you've probably been faked out more than once by this, mid-shuffle -- so incredibly close is this song's opening riff to the one Nirvana invented for "Heart Shaped Box." We're tutting and shaking our heads judgmentally in your direction, Jack White.


  
Nirvana's "Come as You Are" (Stolen from Killing Joke's "Eighties")



Not that Nirvana was immune to nicking other people's ideas. Killing Joke was in the middle of a lawsuit with Nirvana over the fact that the beginning of "Come as You Are" bares a striking resemblance to the key riff in Killing Joke's "Eighties" when Kurt Cobain died. The case was dropped as a result. Dave Grohl went on to forge a friendship with Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman, even recording together in 2003. All's well that ends well, eh?




Green Day's "She's a Rebel" (Stolen from Jawbreaker's "Boxcar")



Now, arguments have been made, both online and off, that Green Day's entire American Idiot album can be linked and closely compared to other artists' work. But nowhere on the record is that more obvious than on "She's a Rebel," which uses in a very direct, blatant manner -- they didn't even change the speed of the thing! -- the key riff from underground classic "Boxcar" by Jawbreaker. These both being Bay Area bands from the exact same scene and era, it's possible that this is some sort of in-joke or approved tribute. Or, it's possible that the members of Green Day are thieving bastards. We may never know.




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13 comments
guest
guest

you clearly don't understand anything about music theory. The chords in the white stripes song are not even the same... two out of three ain't enough for calling it a copy and no judge in the world would have opened a case for this nothing that it is. Just because someone plays the same rhythm on two chords after one another it doesn't make it a rip-off

guest
guest

They also ripped of Dillinger Four's doublewhiskeycokenoice.  It's way more glaring that ripping off "Boxcar", actually, and it was clearly intentional because Billie Joe has said that D4 is one of the best bands in punk rock right now.

Kevininslo
Kevininslo

Drops Of Jupiter can be sung to Drift Away. Not a riff but the entire tune. And it won Song Of The Year.

Tenpercenter
Tenpercenter

White Stripes also ripped off The Pretenders "Middle Of The Road" for their chorus in "Fell In Love With A Girl". I think that one is even more obvious than the Nirvana ripoff.

Gregdimo
Gregdimo

Green Day also ripped off the Kinks with Warning...same riff as Picture Book

NyukNyukNyuk
NyukNyukNyuk

Kid Rock ripping off the Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon

NyukNyukNyuk
NyukNyukNyuk

Red Hot Chili Peppers - can't remember the title, but the verse is pretty much note-for-note Lady Madonna by the Beatles.

Alan Scherstuhl
Alan Scherstuhl

One of my favorites is the Drive-By Truckers' "Marry Me," which is stolen from The Eagles' "Already Gone" -- and a major improvement. 

Also, can we count "Every Paul Simon song, ever"?

Por
Por

 Identical riff.

ZevWar
ZevWar

That wasn't a rip-off. Warren Zevon was given partial songwriting credit. Check the wiki page for "All Summer Long" for details on how the song came about.

Kevininslo
Kevininslo

I'm not sure about Paul Simon. Unless you mean other people stealing from him.

Por
Por

It's so identical I bet if you asked Billie Joe he would say it was an intentional homage.

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