Monday, March 29, 2010

It's New For Everyone Else


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You know you're getting old when a song comes on the radio (or when a music video shows up on cable) and you figure it's some new artist's cover of a famous song from your bygone youth. Then you realize, it's not. This has happened way too often for me now. An entirely new song and lyrics makes its way into your ears and head. And all you say to yourself is, "Wait a minute! They lifted that from so-and-so!" Yeah, I know artists and producers will sample from other older, great(er) tunes. I don't know if it's suppose to be an homage or not, but it happens too often for my thoughts. I suspect it's less than tribute-filled and more that they hope you don't notice while your kids think it great and spend your money to buy it. Will Smith's '97 Men in Black title song lifted freely from Forget Me Nots from 1987 by Patrice Rushen (who just happens to be another native Angeleno that's the same age as me, just way more talented). I remember I just about did what my friends Pop Culture Nerd and Christine refer to as a spit-take when I first heard Changes by Tupac Shakur (since 1986's The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby and The Range is among my favorites). What did it to me tonight was catching the 2006 song Save Room by John Legend:


It is a good song and has interesting lyrics. But, those of us with long memories will instantly pick up on the chords and recognize them from the 1968 track Stormy by the Classics IV (and featuring the late Dennis Yost):


To be clear, I don't have problems with other artists covering these songs. In fact, Santana did a wonderful update of this song that I really admire from 1978. It's the so-called sampling that's been going on that I have issue with. In another ten years, I'm pretty damn sure label producers will be thrilled that folks my age will be hard-pressed to recall the old tunes that they'll continue to lift for their music sales while barely giving lip service toward the original -- but at least I'm putting a thought down on this today. Do you have any beloved songs that have been rip-offed?

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15 comments:

  1. Wow, that "lifting" of STORMY is SO obvious!

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  2. Isn't it? Along with movie studio remakes, I think sampling is another brain-dead example of a lack of originality. Thanks, Naomi.

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  3. On the whole, I don't mind the samplings IF they give big props to the original composers.  (And by props, I mean not only lip service but monetary compensation as well.)  The artist "lifting" from an older song runs the risk though of angering the fans of the original.  (For example, Ice, Ice Baby, for fans of Queen like my husband.)

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  4. Yes, this was my wife's early morning counter to the post, too. I certainly agree that licensing and acknowledgments should be part of this, no question. But, it does seem a bit of cheat by the current artist/producer on their burden for creating something original (that will also sell) when they grabbed on to someone else's tried & true musical hook. Plus, where does the acknowledgment reside? CD liner notes? In the age of iTunes and other download services, a buyer won't get those (especially if they only purchase the single song). Artist web site? I just visited John Legend's site (for that specific album) and still haven't found any. Although, truth be told, they very well may be there and I'm just not a very good <span>finder</span> (or their lawyers are very good). Additionally, it's rare that the public learns how much the original artist was compensated (unless it goes to suit), and how really equitable it is. I guess my point is that I think the current artist's benefit of sampling far outweighs the risks (original artist, if they are still alive, and their fan's ire) as they rake in the money from the younger age demographic who know no better. Sorry for droning on, Christine. I really do appreciate comment. Thank you.

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  5. Oookay, because I was a fan of the songs and they are now stuck in my head after listening to the links you provided, I had to go to iTunes to buy FORGET ME NOTS, MEN IN BLACK and THAT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS.  That of course snowballed into other purchases, like Will Smith's Wild Wild West - another sampler song but Stevie Wonder got props and is in the video.  So, iTunes thanks you, Michael.   ;)

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  6. Though I think it a form of flattery that says to a composer, "I really like what you did here", no doubt that there is the element of "lazy" with all the sampling.  I do feel for those singers/songwriters/composers when they see the music business these days; with how much people with a lot less talent can prosper compared to how business was done in their heyday.

    This post also brings to mind all the technical enhancements that make the singer sound great on a recording, but no way will they sound that good live without lip-synching.  Those are the albums (can we even still use that word?) that I think the "artist" should be listed as the musicians and sound tech gurus featuring so-and-so on vocals.  

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  7. You are so right. It is funny that they have to take from the old songs to make new ones.  I always say that the music of the '60's was the best ever and we haven't had another decade like it. Lucky us....

    Is your blog on WordPress now? I love the look and all the things you can do on it.

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  8. That was me, Bev, that posted...forgot to sign in...

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  9. So many new concepts came out in the 60's (music, tech, and otherwise) that made it so original and remarkable.

    No, I still have a Blogger blog. But, I updated the template with one that had a Wordpress feel to it, and changed the comment system to something that support threaded replies and other niceties.

    Thank you.

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  10. I thought it was you, Bev  :-D . Thanks.

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  11. My problem with sampling is that I'll hear the first few bars and think, "Hey, it's that awesome song!" I then crank up my radio only to realize it's a rip off. 

    Recently, the one that keeps doing that to me is Kid Rock's "All Summer Long." I fall for it every time: "Woo, 'Werewolves in London'!" No, it's not. Boo.

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  12. I hate when I get swerved like that!

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  13. When I went looking for other examples of sampled songs that irked folks, <span>Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" really got to people--and I see why. Werewolves of London is so iconic (remember Tom Cruise steppin' to it in The Color of Money?) the pushback is so justified. Thanks, Elyse.</span>

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