Right now is best of times, worst of times for Sam Smith – up for multiple Grammy Awards including best new artist, but also caught up in a plagiarism scandal involving Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” One of the sleuths who figured that out is from Raleigh, which you can read about here.
Before anybody gets to feeling too self-righteous on Petty’s behalf, however, it’s worth remembering that Petty himself hasn’t been above the occasional liberal borrowing. This is, after all, someone whose voice was once described as “Tom Petty singing like Roger McGuinn singing like Bob Dylan.”
Petty’s 1991 hit “Into the Great Wide Open” prominently featured the phrase “rebel without a clue” in the chorus -- a line that’s also in the Replacements’ 1989 single “I’ll Be You.” The Replacements song wasn’t a big hit; but they were Petty’s opening act for a long stretch of 1989-90. Perhaps that, too, is just a coincidence.
There are also some uncanny similarities between Petty’s 1994 hit “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and the Jayhawks’ 1992 single “Waiting for the Sun.” And maybe it’s still another coincidence, but Petty keyboardist Benmont Tench played on both.
None of which proves anything, other than that there truly is nothing new under the sun.
(H/T to a recent Facebook thread on my wall.)