The music world has been rocked by recent "rip-off" scandals, such as Sam Smith/Tom Petty, Robin Thicke/Marvin Gaye, and (after 30 years) Guns N Roses/Australian Crawl. We here at Legends of Springsteen have previously chided artists for trying their best at aping Springsteen, too. However, it is in this author's personal opinion that we shouldn't judge music "rip-offs" that harshly, as artists generally wear their influences on their sleeves.
So, today, instead of spotlighting an artist that Springsteen has influenced, we'll spotlight a few artists that have influenced the Boss. There are obvious ones like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, but this time, we'll take a look at some Springsteen songs that sound suspiciously like previous hits. First up, let's take a look at some classics from Born To Run.
Bo Diddley Beat / "She's The One"
In "She's The One", Bruce uses the classic Bo Diddley beat. This beat has been used in a ton of pop songs, but the ones I hear the most with just the beat are Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and George Michael's "Faith". It's an iconic beat, so it's no shame in Bruce stealing from the best (you can also sorta hear this beat on "High Hopes" as well).
"Tiny Dancer" / "Jungleland"
Specifically, we are talking about the piano introductions on both songs. I guess I kinda see this one, but it is fleeting. The songs are just four years apart, so I'll leave it up to you to make the call.
"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" / "Badlands"
The video above is just a small excerpt from Bruce's 2012 keynote speech at SXSW. The first five minutes is dedicated to his love of The Animals, pointing exactly how they inspired him. At the end of the video, however, Bruce clearly illustrates how "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" directly influenced "Badlands". As Bruce says at the end, "Listen up youngsters! This is how successful theft is accomplished!"
Now, you may be saying, "Hey goober, all these examples are from Bruce's early career! Of course a young artist is going to rely a lot on his influences." Fairly noted. So, let's take a look at some examples from later on down the line.
"867-5309 (Jenny)" / "Radio Nowhere"
Hard to argue with this one - it's one of the more blatant offenders I've heard in the last ten years. But kudos to Mr. Tutone for letting it go and not lawyer-ing it up.
"I Was Made For Lovin' You" / "Outlaw Pete"
We here at Legends of Springsteen are no fans of "Outlaw Pete", which has come up with a disturbing amount of frequency on this blog. However, we have previously noted that KISS has taken from the Boss, so turnabout is fair play, I say.
"Small Town" / "Just Like Fire Would"
Ok, let's see if you can follow this one. You have Bruce Springsteen, who inspired John Mellencamp. Then, years later, Bruce Springsteen is inspired by a punk band called The Saints. He covers the band, using an arrangement similar to John Mellencamp. Can you really rip someone off who has been ripping you off? Like the KISS example above, turnabout is still fair play.
So, there we have it. In this humble author's opinion, I believe we need to relax whenever one song sounds somewhat similar to another song. Often in these scenarios, people like to get on a very high horse. Sometimes they'll criticize a particular artist mainly because they have an axe to grind against them (which happened a lot with Lady Gaga's "Born This Way"). More often, I've seen this old chestnut - "There's no original music anymore!" Well, next time you hear some fuddy-duddy complaining about originality in music, please direct them to this post. As you can see, every artist is guilty of being, let's say, "overly-inspired" by their predecessors.