George Harrison And The Most Famous Accusations Of Musical Plagiarism

George Harrison 1969

Plagiarism happens in music, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose. Sometimes it's "unconscious borrowing", other times it's a "musical homage". We look at the times when the legal eagles have got involved, but judge for yourself!

George Harrison Vs. The Chiffons

The ex-Beatle was the first of the Fab Four to have a massive hit in 1970, with this tribute to The Almighty, but he soon came a cropper when it was pointed out to him that it bore a strong resemblance to the 1962 hit by the US girl group The Chiffons. Oops. A lengthy court case ensued, complicated by the fact that the former Beatles manager Allen Klein later ended up owning the publishing - effectively trying to sell the song back to our George. In September 1976, a judge declared the Beatle had “subconsciously” stolen the melody, but the financial details wouldn’t be settled until a couple of years before George’s death in 2001. John Lennon said of the affair: “Maybe he thought God would let him off.”


George Harrison - My Sweet Lord

The Chiffons - He’s So Fine


Led Zeppelin Vs. Spirit

Led Zep hit the headlines after the intro to their 1971 hit, Stairway To Heaven, was accused of bearing a striking resemblance to Spirit's 1967 instrumental, Taurus. A judge decided that the songs - which both feature a descending chromatic four-chord progression - bore "no substantial similarity" to each other, saving Robert Plant and Jimmy Page a huge amount in royalties. 


Led Zeppelin


Hozier Vs. Chilly Gonzales

Canadian producer Chilly Gonzales issued an apology after he accused Hozier of plagiarism. Gonzales claimed the Irish singer's track Take Me To Church was very similar to his friend Feist's track How Come You Never Go There and Hozier subsequently demanded an apology. In a post on Facebook, Gonzales said: "I would like to fully retract any and all implication of copyright infringement... and sincerely apologise to Hozier whose work I respect." But are the tracks similar? Have a listen below.




The New Seekers Vs. Oasis

The band made a huge splash in the summer of 1994 with their single Shakermaker, but it wasn't long before people pointed out that the opening line was VERY similar to the song I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing. Originally written in 1971 for a Coke ad, it was later a huge hit for The New Seekers and the Gallaghers had to come to a settlement with the writers - some sources cite half a million dollars. Ideal, the manufacturers of Shakermaker, the 1970s craft toy, have thankfully not pursued a similar claim.



The New Seekers

The Hollies Vs. Radiohead

Albert Hammond (father of Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes, natch) is a hugely successful songwriter in his own right and penned the song The Air That I Breathe with Mike Hazelwood in 1972.  Manchester band The Hollies took the song to No 2 in the UK charts in 1974.  Their publishers noted a similarity to the young Oxford band's 1992 breakthrough single Creep and they now get a songwriting credit.



The Hollies

Wire Vs. Elastica

Justine Frischmann's Britpop band always wore their post-punk influences on their sleeves, but in the case of their 1994 hit, the similarity to Wire's 1977 classic Three Girl Rhumba was too close for comfort. They also were pursued by lawyers for The Stranglers, who felt that Elastica's Connection bore too much of a resemblance to the 1977 hit No More Heroes. Out-of-court settlements were the outcome in both cases.




Joe Satriani Vs. Coldplay

Coldplay received two separate allegations of plagiarism for Viva La Vida; one from US band Creaky Boards (who?) and one from guitar legend Joe Satriani. The former was quickly disproved (Coldplay had demos pre-dating those of Creaky Boards), but the latter was a different matter. "It felt like a dagger going through my heart," said Joe. After going to court, however, the judge dismissed the case.



Joe Satriani

Killing Joke Vs. Nirvana

The Joke (as we call them) couldn't help noticing that the riff to their 1984 track Eighties was very similar to that off Nirvana's Come As You Are, which was included on their album Nevermind and later released as a single. Despite claiming they'd sue, nothing ever came to court and following the death of Kurt Cobain, the matter was dropped. 


Killing Joke


The Rutles Vs. Oasis

The Gallaghers released their marvellous sing-a-long ditty as a one-off single at Christmas 1994. However, publishers EMI noticed a similarity between the main melody and that of Neil Innes' 1973 song How Sweet To Be An Idiot and wangled him a co-writing credit. Often performing with Monty Python, Innes was the songwriting genius behind Eric Idle's 1978 Beatles parody The Rutles. Oh, the irony.



Neil Innes




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