Did Coldplay rob Joe Satriani?

So, Joe Satriani is suing Coldplay for copy right infringement. Before I render my judgment on the issue, check out these clips. This one is a simple comparison of the main melody

This one is a much longer academic look. Warning, it’s 9 minutes.

This one is all in German. However, they actually layer one song over the other for a really full look at the controversy.


What is my verdict? Did Coldplay steal from Satriani? Unquestionably yes. Guilty. The melody is too complex for co-incidence. Now, did Coldplay do so with malice? No idea. It could have been something the singer heard in his sleep. Regardless, cash made off that song should be shared with Satriani.

I should acknowledge a bit of bias here. I used to be big fans of both artists at different times, and have seen both live. To me, they are both one trick pony’s whose music hasn’t grown in years. I now actively listen to neither, though I both on my iPod.

This got me thinking about some other famous similar cases. You may remember that Vanilla Ice was taken to court for sampling the riff from ‘Under Pressure’. In short, Vanilla won because he had changed the riff ever so slightly.

My verdict? Guilty. The riff was stolen with malicious intent to profit off of a known and liked complex piece of music.

Here is the best story of plagiarism in the history of music. John Fogerty (he is CCR in it’s entirety) was sued by the owners of CCR’s catalogue for sounding too much like CCR on his colo recordings. Really. True story. John Fogerty was sued for sounding too much like John Fogerty. I couldn’t make that up, read here

There are ways around this. Interestingly, when the Stones recorded 'Has anybody seen my baby?' someone pointed out the chorus sounded an awful lot like K.D. Lang's Constant Craving. So, the Stone's listed her in the songwriting credits. Well played, man. Thus avoid the drama and lawsuits and all that bad mojo. There are only eight major chords, so some things are absolutely bound to be repeated.

George Harrison was sued for 'My Sweet Lord' for sounding too much like the chorus of 'He's so fine". He lost that, but I disagree. I don't think those three syllables are a complex melody and could easily be repeated in another song. I write songs too, so I understand the nature of this. I was super bummed when I wrote a great chorus piece that went E down B (barred at the 7th fret). Only after I was totally finished did I realize that I had pinched 'Blaze of Glory' from John Bon Jovi. oops.

Suing someone for sounding like themselves though? Well, that is just silly. Why not sue Zwan for sounding too much like Smashing Pumpkins? Or, sue the new Smashing Pumpkins for sounding too much like Zwan. They both have the same band members who do all the songwriting and recording > Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlain. Or, sue the new Smashing Pumpkins for sounding absolutely nothing like the old Smashing Pumpkins. That happened to Neil Young. That lawsuit was dropped, so I guess Neil won.


El Bicho said…
Good article and I agree with your verdict. John Fogerty was sued in the '80s for sounding like himself by the guy who owned the CCR catalog.

btw, you suck! (You can run but you can't hide)

Have a good new year.
El Bicho said…
dang, guess I should have read the middle because now I see you covered the CCR bit. Looks like I suck too. Hopefully hundreds of people won't tell me that. ;)

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