Why The Beatles Were Accused Of Plagiarism
via The Beatles / Youtube
Songs by The Beatles, especially in their earlier years, didn’t give listeners much room for interpretation. Moreover, there was one and only time that the band was accused of plagiarism.
The Beatles frequently teetered on the brink of plagiarizing their influences without realizing it; this is very normal behavior for a band that superbly wrote hundreds of songs throughout their 10-year existence, and such “borrowing” of ideas is almost always the result of unconscious impulses rather than intentional plagiarism. A great example of this is the John Lennon-penned hit, “Run For Your Life,” which directly referenced Elvis Presley’s “Baby Let’s Play House” and even imitated the lyric: “well, I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man.” Thankfully, Presley’s estate didn’t dwell much upon it and let it slide.
Another occasion was when the Fab Four imitated something, this time with Bobby Parker’s “Watch Your Step” guitar licks to their song, “I Feel Fine,” which Lennon himself admitted to using. However, instead of Parker suing, he merely took it as a compliment and even addressed the issue one in an interview.
It seemed that The Beatles could get away with anything they borrowed, yet the time still came when they were forced to explain why they copied one song out of someone as famous as them. That someone was Chuck Berry, and the song in question was their 1969 Abbey Road hit, “Come Together.”
Its chord progression was lifted straight from Berry’s 1956 hit “You Can’t Catch Me” and the line “Here come old flat-top” was also used in both songs. The publishers of Berry’s work saw a quick buck in this and sued John Lennon, who ultimately settled out of court. Although Lennon’s agreement could be interpreted as a confession of guilt, he denied any wrongdoings.
Still, Berry remains one of The Beatles’ greatest heroes who inspired them to become the iconic musicians that we know today.