Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Blogs that sound the same

If you were listening to instrumental guitar rock 4 years ago, you might have heard the song "If I Could Fly," by supreme guitar extraordinaire Joe Satriani.

If you've been listening to popular radio for the last few months, then you've heard the song "Viva la Vida" by British band Coldplay.

Well now, Satriani says that if you've heard the Coldplay song and not his, then you've actually heard his song, except with words.

Last week in court, the "Satch Man," as Satriani is called, sued Coldplay, who have been dubbed the "new" Beatles or the dung Beatles, depending on who you ask, for plariarism over allegations that their song "Viva la Vida" borrowed the melody from his song "If I Could Fly." Satriani said that he was shocked the first time he heard Coldplay's tune. "It was like a dagger through the heart," he said. Chris Martin, the lead singer for Coldplay adamantly insists that his band did nothing wrong and thinks the lawsuit filed by the guy whose name rhymes with "Moe Batriani" is absurd.

There's even a video on You Tube that got over a million hits in the first day that compares the two songs. The video plays clips from each song that leave the viewer with the obvious impression that the only really good Coldplay song is just a rip off of Satriani's labor of love. The maker of the video then overlays the two songs which actually sounds better than either one standing alone, but don't expect the two to tour together anytime soon.

Could it be that Coldplay came up with a statistically significant similar melody out of pure happenstance, or is did they think that Satriani's music was instrumental simply because he could not speak or speak out? Music has been around for a long, long time and melodies have enjoyed remarkable originality through the years, but could it be that we are simply running out of new, unique melodies? Are similiar songs just musical accidents? I oftened wondered this when I was a kid, and since that time there have been thousands of new, original recordings hitting the airways and even more thousands going unreleased on albums. If man has already produced every possible melody, then the mathematical concept of the "pigeonhole principle" dictates that at least two melodies will be the same, not counting deliberately recycled melodies like "Twinkle Twinkle," the "ABC" song, and "Baa Baa Black Sheep."

This means that there might be another "Achy, Breaky Heart" somewhere down the lines, perhaps as an instrumental orchestral piece. Lynyrd Skynyrd's classic "Sweet Home Alabama" might someday reappear as a country song sung by a rock artist--oh wait, Kid Rock already did that. But sampling or oversampling existing tunes is entirely different that "original" works that sound eerily the same. Why, just last August, the Black Crowes sued Gretchen Wilson, claiming her ditty "Work Hard, Play Harder" sounded a lot like the Crowes "Jealous Again" hit.

The most famous case is probably a lawsuit brought about by former Beatle (not of Coldplay) George Harrison against The Chifons, claiming their "He's So Fine," is a rip-off of his "My Sweet Lord." Sounds like the same song to me with an synonymous title. And there are others:
  • Mercury and Bowie's "Under Pressure" and Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby"--of course ICE will tell you that there's and extra "duh" in his version . . . DUH!
  • SClub7's "I never had a dream come true" and Eliot Yamin's "Wait for you"--the former American Idol standout didn't even TRY to hide this one.
  • Backstreet Boys "Drowning" and O-Town's "All or Nothing"--Boy bands copying other boy bands is downright uninteresting.
  • Sly and the Family Stone's "Thank you for letting me be myself" was boosted by Janet Jackson in "Rhythm Nation."--She later thanked Sly and the Family Stone for letting her just be themselves.
  • The Christmas Classic "What Child is this?" and "Greensleeves"--what are Greensleeves anyway?
  • Francis Scott Key's "Star-Spangled Banner" and Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train"--well, maybe not so much
  • Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven all sound like Wagner, Handel, and Vivaldi--supposedly all good for babies. I wonder if THEY can tell the difference?.!
  • Even the number 1 rock and roll song of all time, Led Zepplin's "Stairway to Heaven" sounds eerily similar to Spirit's "Taurus," a song that predates it by 3 years!!! Say it isn't so!!! That one HAD to be an accident.
Of course there are many, many others. If you care, just "google" it or do a search on "You Tube." What should or could be done in situations like this? Well, that's for the courts to decide. I'll I know is that in the most recent case, I'm very excited to learn of the great song by Joe Satriani. I've been listening to it over and over. So, thanks Coldplay for turning me on to such a great tune. Keep 'em coming.

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