Plagiarism: What’s Yours Ain’t Mine

Bob Dylan

I remember the first song I plagiarized.  It was “Leaving On A Jet Plane” by John Denver.  I was probably only about 12 years old at the time because I had likely heard the song on the radio sometime in 1969 when it was first released.  I didn’t know the word “plagiarism” then, let alone understand the concept of it.

I was in the middle of writing a song called “Home” (sorry, I took that title before you, Edward Sharpe and Phillip Phillips!).  Instinctively I came up with a little instrumental bridge, but then I decided to hum over top of it.  Part of the melody I was humming was the first two lines of the chorus of Leaving On A Jet Plane.  I remember the subtle feeling that the melody wasn’t mine, but it didn’t bother me too much at the time!

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Production Over Songwriting?

The question today is:  Has production become more important than songwriting in today’s music?  It’s not a new question, but it’s important to revisit from time to time. I actually saw a discussion of this on Reddit and it got me to thinking about it again.

Let’s first separate production from arrangement.  Arrangement involves the musical part of the song;  who plays what where and for how long, whereas the production is the more technical aspect;  volume, effects, mastering and everything in between.

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Five Reasons Why You Can’t Finish That Song

The hardest part about writing a song is finishing it.  Wouldn’t it be nice if they all just flowed out of us in one, sweet sitting with no editing necessary?  More likely is the fact that we’ll have to work at it to get it done.  When you find yourself struggling to finish a song, consider these five points:

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Songwriting Topics

writeI have written about this before, but thought I would do so again after reading another songwriting blog that suggested what the five “most successful” songwriting topics are.  They were listed as “love, country, religion, nature, sports”.  I want to take each of those topics and discuss them a little further.  These are my opinions, of course, you might want to argue with me in the comments section below :-).

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Be Careful What You Read

Linda Perry
Linda Perry

Here are a bunch of shocking headlines I grabbed lately from various web ‘sources’, emphasis is mine:

    • Beyonce’s Songwriting Abilities Clowned By Songwriter Linda Perry
    • Linda Perry SLAMS Beyoncé For Taking Credit When She Shouldn’t! – Perez Hilton
    • Shots Fired? Linda Perry Takes Aim At Beyonce’s Songwriting –
    • Beyonce’s Songwriting Credits are Questioned by Linda Perry But Do Fans Really Care? – Bustle
    • Beyonce Must Prove Herself As A Songwriter –
    • Linda Perry Calls Out Beyonce’s “Songwriting” Skills – Dlisted

…and most shocking of all…

  • Linda Perry Drags Illiterate Porn Star Beyonce For Her Bullshit –

You can check the sources yourself if you want to, which is why I included them. And how did it all start? Well, songwriter Linda Perry, who has written for Christina Aguilera, Pink, Ariana Grande, Celine Dion, Alicia Keys and others, did a recent Reddit question-and-answer session, and one of the questions posed to her was this:

Linda, how do you feel about Beyonce changing one word on a song and getting writing credit. Does that bother you as a songwriter?

It’s a fair question because songwriting credit is certainly a revenue source that artists (and their managers and record labels) have started to take more advantage of in the past few years.  Change a word here or there and ask for writing credits so you can get a bigger piece of the pie.

Let’s look at that idea for a minute though.  If you had someone the calibre of Beyonce wanting to record your song and potentially making a lot of moola, what would you do?  I’m thinking a lot of us would day “sure, go ahead, whatever you want!” with great enthusiasm and flashing dollar signs in our eyes.  I’m also thinking that big name artists like Beyonce know very well that if one songwriter won’t do it, another will.

From the headlines above, however, you’d think that Linda Perry was a self-righteous, nasty-mouthed, ungrateful be-atch.  This is the inter-web folks (yes, I know it’s not called that) and you need to remember that every entertainment-related website is continuously looking for new ways to scream for attention, so I wanted to show you Linda’s actual answer (which others did too, but almost as an afterthought, hoping maybe you’d click on an ad or two in the meantime):

“Well hahaha um thats not songwriting but some of these artists believe if it wasnt for them your song would never get out there so they take a cut just because they are who they are. but everyone knows the real truth even Beyonce. She is talented but in a completely different way.”

Utterly blasphemous, no?  No.  Just an honest response to an honest question.  I don’t love Beyonce, and neither do I hate her.  Sometimes it’s just the web I hate.