Super Popular Songs That Are Ridiculously Similar

There are approximately eleventy billion songs in the world—double that if you include everything Prince recorded and didn't release. With that much music, and with only so many notes to go around, there's bound to be similarities between songs here and there. But some tunes go beyond a mere quickie coincidence and wind up little more than a differently-worded version of a hit that came out years, months, or even weeks prior. Let's explore, shall we?

The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony vs. Rolling Stones / Andrew Oldham Orchestra: The Last Time

The Verve only had one hit, but boy did they make it count. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" is a sweeping symphony of sadness, lamenting about life's meaninglessness and how it's nothing but a race for money until the Reaper comes to claim you for an eternity or three. It's the perfect song for the angsty '90s, except for how it's been around since the '60s. And someone else wrote it.

The string section of "Bitter Sweet" (which you might recognize as the entire song) was lifted wholesale from the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time." But not the original version you hear on the radio when your iPod dies and you forgot the charger—there was a violin-heavy version recorded by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra, which was little more than a side project for Stones manager Andrew Oldham. He and the band allowed the Verve to use a small snippet of "The Last Time: Violins All The Way Down Edition," but when they heard "Bitter Sweet" and realized it was top-to-bottom their song, they rightfully flipped out. The ensuing legal smackdown sent most of "Bitter Sweet's" royalties to the Stones' camp, and the song now lists Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as co-writers. It's certainly something to be prouder of than anything off of Voodoo Lounge.

Ray Parker Jr.: Ghostbusters Theme vs. Huey Lewis And The News: I Want A New Drug vs. M: Pop Musik

One reason 1984's Ghostbusters got so popular (besides the whole movie-being-great thing) was Ray Parker Jr.'s enigmatically-titled theme song, "Ghostbusters." People enjoyed it so much, in fact, many didn't notice they'd already heard the song. In 1983, Huey Lewis And The News released "I Want A New Drug," which Parker aped almost completely for "Ghostbusters." As Lewis's successful lawsuit proved, adding spooky-sounding synth to preexisting material does not originality make.

The two sides settled super-quietly: the lawsuit forced all parties to never talk about it, ever. Lewis broke that silence in a 2001 episode of Behind The Music—this led to Parker suing him for "emotional distress," the musical equivalent of a burglar suing the guy he burgled for venting on Facebook about being burgled. Years after that, in an interview with Premiere Magazine, the Ghostbusters people outright confessed that Parker stole "Drug," and they let him do so. Apparently, they sent Parker film footage with the song playing in the background, and basically told him to ape that sound and damn the consequences. That'll teach Lewis to write things.

Not that the News Man is completely innocent—the bass line to "I Want a New Drug" already existed in M's 1979 hit "Pop Musik." That detail often winds up underreported, since M didn't sue anybody. That is, unless they did and everybody's keeping their traps shut for once.

Spirit: Taurus vs. Led Zeppelin: Stairway To Heaven vs. Dolly Parton: We Used To

The instantly memorable opening to Led Zeppelin's most iconic tune, "Stairway To Heaven"—a song every guitarist can play by plucking the first two notes and saying, "welp, you get the idea"—isn't theirs at all. It appears to have been ganked from "Taurus" by the band Spirit, whom Zeppelin toured with back in the late-1960s. Both song's intros are almost exactly alike, from chords down to the order of the notes picked. Being a lesser-known band, it took Spirit years to gather the funds (and the nerve) to challenge one of rock's biggest bands in court, a lawsuit that's still ongoing as of this writing.

Zeppelin, obviously, denies stealing anything, because that's not a thing sane people admit to. They did, however, admit the lawsuit's claims of Zep being "exceptionally talented" and "one of the greatest bands in history" are 100 percent true. If that's their idea of pleading guilty to lesser charges to avoid conviction on more serious ones, they should probably hire a better lawyer.

But even if Spirit loses, they can always try again with Dolly Parton, whose 1975 hit "We Used To" also uses that intro. But Dolly's thievery might be even more brazen than Zeppelin's, because Zep stole from a small name. Parton, meanwhile, outright picked the pocket of the richest socialite in town and danced on top of City Hall with the money. For that alone, she should never be sued and always celebrated.

Radiohead: Creep vs. The Hollies: The Air That I Breathe

Radiohead's early career was defined by the success of "Creep," their mid-90s ode to feeling bad about everything. They almost never play it anymore because they hate it and moved on to less self-pitying fare almost immediately—playing it again would be like a successful CEO going to work in the goth clothes they wore while shocking their parents in high school.

However, there's presumably another reason: they got themselves sued for this song, and promptly disowned it as a result. "Creep's" chords match the Hollies' 1973 hit "The Air That I Breathe" almost completely—Radiohead recycled the song's strumming style and tempo to such an extent that the only real differences are the Hollies' lack of crunchy grunge guitar and Radiohead's lack of getting-over-yourselfness. That difference wasn't enough for the Hollies, who successfully sued Radiohead for copyright infringement. "Creep" now lists Hollies' members Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood as co-writers, who also get a cut of any royalties the song generates. That would go a long way toward explaining why Radiohead desperately wants "Creep" to pull a Gollum, leave now, and never come back.

Pachelbel: Canon In D vs. So Many Pop Songs

If we listed every song that sounded like another song, this article would take up the entire internet. There's a reason for this: tons of songs from the 1970s on are glorified copies of one classical track: Johann Pachelbel's "Canon In D." Pachelbel composed the song in the 17th century, died, and "Canon" died with him. But in the late-1960s, it experienced an inexplicable surge in popularity and has influenced popular music so much, its beautiful and natural chord progression can be heard everywhere. Countless rock, pop, country, metal, punk, and insert-other-genre-here songs get built around "Canon's" D-A-B-F-G-D-G-A setup with varying variations. Some songs barely change anything, which basically amounts to covering "Canon" with words replacing violins. But the song's been public domain for, oh, several centuries now, so it's legally okay, though perhaps less so artistically.

Since nobody has the time to list every song "Canon" has metamorphosed into, let the video above serve as a primer. That comedian could've played "Canon" rip-offs all night long and not run out of material. That's how influential Pachelbel and his damn chords have become.