Famous Songs You Had No Idea Use Other People’s Music

Mariah Carey – Fantasy

Mariah Carey’s Fantasy is one of many songs to sample the Tom Tom Club’s Genius of Love. Originally started as a side project by Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz of the Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club never enjoyed any major success aside from Genius of Love.

However, the song’s catchy synth intro makes it instantly recognizable and easy to sample.

Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby

Vanilla Ice caused major controversy when he released Ice Ice Baby, and not just because it’s an awful song. The song’s bassline was clearly ripped straight from Queen and David Bowie’s 1981 hit, Under Pressure.

No writing credits were given to Bowie or Queen, which resulted in a lawsuit. Vanilla Ice claims that one slight note change at the end of the riff differentiates the two songs. Unsurprisingly, the judge didn’t side with him.

Kid Rock – All Summer Long

Kid Rock always manages to stay on brand, occasionally stealing bits of music from artists he wishes he shared a resemblance with.

His 2007 surprise hit All Summer Long, draws heavily from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 classic Sweet Home Alabama. The song also contains heavy influence from Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London.

Oasis – She’s Electric

Noel Gallagher makes no secret of his tendency to steal directly from other artists, with early Oasis songs being littered with musical influences from artists such as T-Rex, George Harrison, and David Bowie.

One of his most indiscreet thefts is found in She’s Electric, with the “I’ll be you and you’ll be me” melody ripped straight from The Kinks’ Wonderboy.

M.I.A – Paper Planes

M.I.A’s most famous song Paper Planes relies heavily on a sample of The Clash’s Straight To Hell, and the songs echo each other in sentiment as well as sound.

While The Clash tackled the uncomfortable yet poignant topic of British colonialization, M.I.A delves into the stereotypes faced by those who have moved to the UK from abroad.

Taylor Swift – Look What You Made Me Do

Taylor Swift kicked off her Reputation era with Look What You Made Me Do, a song that represented a huge shift in her work, drifting from out-and-out pop music to a harder, more electronic-based sound.

In order to get there, she took elements from Right Said Fred’s early 90s hit, I’m Too Sexy. A strange combination, but one that worked for Swift, as Look What You Made Me Do shot to number one in both the US and the UK.

The Beatles – Come Together

Come Together is proof that even the greatest songwriters will occasionally pinch lines from other artists. The song was originally written in a much higher tempo than what we hear on Abbey Road, before Paul McCartney realized that John Lennon had stolen a couple of lines from Chuck Berry’s You Can’t Catch Me.

The group slowed the tempo down, but Berry’s lawyers still came knocking. To prevent a lawsuit, Lennon agreed to record three of Berry’s tracks on his solo Rock ‘n’ Roll album.

David Bowie – Young Americans

David Bowie’s 1975 LP, Young Americans, contains a fair amount of The Beatles, with a cover of Across The Universe, a duet with John Lennon on Fame, and the line, “I heard the news today, oh boy” nestled in the album’s title track.

This is of course a line lifted and adapted from The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers album closer, A Day in The Life.

Bon Jovi – You Give Love a Bad Name

Bon Jovi’s angry hit, You Give Love a Bad Name was originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler under the name, If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man). Songwriter Desmond Child was desperately unhappy with the chart performance of Tyler’s song and decided to rewrite it with Jon Bon Jovi and Ritchie Sambora.

You Give Love a Bad Name was born, and Desmond Child could finally rest easy again.

Maroon 5 – Memories

The members of Maroon 5 decided to get sentimental when they recorded Memories, a song about losing loved ones set to the backing track of Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel.

Unlike Canon in D Major, which is a highly acclaimed piece of classical music, Memories made it into a handful of ‘worst songs of 2019’ lists.

Train – Play That Song

Hoagy Carmichael’s 1938 piano piece, Heart and Soul, went on to provide the backing track and melody for Train’s 2017 single Play That Song.

Frank Loesser’s original lyrics clearly weren’t basic enough for Pat Monahan, who decided to rewrite the song’s words using only the most simple and obvious rhyming couplets.

DJ Khaled and Rihanna – Wild Thoughts

Wild Thoughts by DJ Khaled and Rihanna is broken up by an ear-grinding guitar solo which actually gets worse after every listen.

This solo was actually ripped from Maria Maria by Santana, in which the guitar solo sounds equally awful, sticking out like a sore thumb.

Madonna – Hung Up

When you have as much of a status in the pop music world as Madonna, you can just about get away with reusing an already iconic riff at the start of your song.

Madonna personally asked the writers of ABBA’s Gimme Gimme Gimme, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, if she could use the song’s intro for her own piece. They said yes, and once again saw their names on the writing credits of another worldwide number-one single.

Pitbull ft. Christina Aguilera – Feel This Moment

Pitbull and Christina Aguilera teamed up to create Feel This Moment, a rap/dance song that is based on Norwegian group A-ha’s classic riff on their song, Take on Me.

Pitbull was clearly keen to pay tribute to the song, reenacting a scene from the Take on Me music video in the Feel This Moment music video.

The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight

The Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 hit Rapper’s Delight became the first ever rap song to make it into the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 music chart.

When Chic guitarist and band leader Nile Rodgers first heard the song in a New York club, he instantly recognized that the backing track had been ripped straight from Chic’s Good Times. After threatening legal action, Rodgers and Chic bassist Bernard Edwards were given songwriting credits.

The Time (Dirty Bit) – Black Eyed Peas

In what must be regarded as a crime against music, the Black Eyed Peas released their single, The Time (Dirty Bit) in 2011.

As well the horrifically dated production of the dance break sections of the song, the band heavily sampled Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.

Fatboy Slim – Praise You

One of the standout tracks on Fatboy Slim’s second album, You’ve Come a Long Way Baby, is Praise You, an upbeat, five-and-a-half-minute long dance anthem still played in clubs 25 years after its initial release.

The vocals on the song are directly sampled from a soul ballad by Camille Yarbrough, named Take Yo’ Praise.

Frank Ocean – White Ferrari

The timeless longevity of Paul McCartney’s melody in Here, There, and Everywhere is solidified when you hear how it fits so effortlessly into Frank Ocean’s White Ferrari.

Ocean makes a couple of lyric changes but does manage to slide the song’s title lyric into the latter half of the song.

Olivia Rodrigo – Deja Vu

Olivia Rodrigo is of the generation of songwriters that grew up with Taylor Swift’s influence looming large. This influence is indeed present in Rodrigo’s aptly named single, Deja Vu.

The middle eight from Swift’s Cruel Summer was snatched and repurposed, to good effect, fitting in with the song’s irregular drum beats and synth lines.

Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane – Black Beatles

No prizes for guessing which band was at the forefront of Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane’s minds when they wrote Black Beatles.

The lyric “She’s a good teaser” in Black Beatles is lifted from The Beatles’ 1966 hit, Day Tripper, while other references to the Fab Four are made throughout the song, including the famous final Beatles concert on the Apple building’s rooftop in London.

Brad Paisley ft. Alabama – Old Alabama

If you’re going to sample a large portion of the song, why not get the band members who wrote the original to come and help you record it?

That’s exactly what country singer Brad Paisley did, recruiting three members of Alabama to rerecord the bridge to their song Mountain Music for Paisley’s hit, Old Alabama.

Enrique Iglesias ft. Pitbull – I Like It

Enrique Iglesias brought in prolific song sampler Pitbull to work on his track I Like It.

The pair inserted Lionel Richie’s famous line from All Night Long, “Party, karamu, fiesta, forever” after the chorus of I Like It as a not-so-subtle nod to the singer’s influence on easy-listening party music.

Amy Winehouse – Tears Dry on Their Own

Amy Winehouse’s Tears Dry on Their Own started off as a ballad but was quickly transformed into a radio-friendly singalong, thanks to some inspiration from a Motown classic.

Tears Dry on Their Own’s production was heavily inspired by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s classic, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, with a horn section, percussion and a similar drum beat pushing the song forward.

Coldplay – Talk

When Coldplay’s Talk was released in 2005, Kraftwerk’s early 80s material wasn’t at the forefront of the minds of pop music fans. Listen to Talk and you’ll notice the intro’s similarity to Kraftwerk’s Computer Love.

Coldplay saw an opportunity to either express their respect for the electronic pioneers or to pinch a great little riff and play it off as their own. Either way, it made for a decent song and became a modest hit

Juice WRLD – Lucid Dreams

When you listen to Juice WRLD’s music, Sting is unlikely to be the first artist that comes to mind. However, Juice WRLD swooped into The Police frontman’s solo catalog, taking the guitar line from Shape of My Heart and using it for his breakout hit, Lucid Dreams.

Sting eventually clocked onto this, and now has 85% of the royalty rights for Lucid Dreams.

Selena Gomez – Bad Liar

There aren’t many basslines that are as instantly recognizable as Tina Weymouth’s intro to Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer.

Selena Gomez, or one of her songwriters, clearly shares this opinion, as it was reused and repurposed for Gomez’s track Bad Liar. The producers even kept a similar tone on the bass, staying true to the original.

Flo Rida – Right Round

Flo Rida decided to dip into a bit of classic British new wave when creating his hit song Right Round in 2009.

He took the chorus from Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), repurposing it for the modern era, by replacing the “like a record” with “when you go down”. The song proved a hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks.

Aloe Blacc – The Man

Aloe Blacc only borrowed four words from Bernie Taupin’s lyrics and a snippet of Elton John’s melody for his song, The Man.

However, “you can tell everybody” is all that you need to recognize that the sample in question is from Your Song, one of Elton John’s most beloved hits.

Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still

Feel It Still took Portugal. The Man from indie band to pop sensation over the course of a summer, giving the band their first top ten single on the Billboard 100 chart.

The catchy groove and bassline are complemented by a vocal hook which is borrowed from The Marvelettes’ 1960s classic, Please Mr. Postman.

Dua Lipa – Break My Heart

Pop sensation Dua Lipa is not shy to take little influences from songs that have come before, a move that has landed her in trouble a couple of times. The chorus to one of her biggest songs, Break My Heart, takes the melody from the guitar riff from Australian band INXS’ hit, Need You Tonight.

The song wasn’t going to include INXS’ Michael Hutchence and Andrew Farriss on the songwriting credits until one of its writers noticed the similarity between the chorus and guitar riff.

Ariana Grande – 7 Rings

Ariana Grande’s 7 Rings is a clear interpolation of My Favorite Things, written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for the Sound of Music soundtrack in 1959.

Grande’s version proved to be a huge success, topping the charts in 15 countries.

The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony

The Verve’s Urban Hymns album and its first single, Bitter Sweet Symphony, propelled an overlooked band into stardom almost overnight. This caught the ears of former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham, who had compiled an orchestral album of Stones songs in the mid-60s.

He noticed that Richard Ashcroft of The Verve had used a string loop similar to the one on his version of The Last Time. He sued and won, and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were awarded songwriting credits, which they have since returned to Ashcroft.

Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know

Gotye’s one-and-only big hit Somebody That I Used To Know is backed by a sample of Brazilian guitarist Luiz Bonfa’s 1967 song, Seville.

The song went on to top the charts all over the world, including in the US and the UK. It was the eighth best-selling song in the USA in the 2010s.

Rihanna – SOS

Rihanna’s SOS contains an additional songwriting credit for Ed Cobb, who wrote the song Tainted Love in 1964, a song originally made popular by singer Gloria Jones. However, it wasn’t Jones’ version of the song that was sampled by the producers of Rihanna’s hit.

SOS contains similar instrumentation and arrangements to Soft Cell’s 1980s cover of Tainted Love, albeit with an entirely different melody and set of lyrics.

Puff Daddy & Faith Evans – I’ll Be Missing You

I’ll Be Missing You was a tribute to the Notorious B.I.G. who had been murdered two months before the song was released.

The song was written and performed by Puff Daddy (P Diddy) and B.I.G.’s fiancé Faith Evans. The backing track and some of the song’s lyrical and melodic content were taken from The Police’s Every Breath You Take.

Shakira – Hips Don’t Lie

The trumpet line on Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie is instantly recognizable, asserting the song’s Latin influence very early on.

This arrangement was not original though, having previously been used on the song Amores Como el Nuestro, by Puerto Rican salsa singer Jerry Rivera.

Drake – Hotline Bling

Drake’s Hotline Bling was the lead single off his 2016 album Views and was co-written with producer Nineteen85.

70s R&B singer Timmy Thomas also receives a songwriting credit, as his song Why Can’t We Live Together was heavily sampled.

MC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This

MC Hammer’s most famous work, U Can’t Touch This, was built around Rick James’ Super Freak. Despite there being almost zero difference between the backing tracks of both songs, Hammer didn’t think to give James any songwriting credits.

James eventually sued for copyright infringement but settled out of court, gaining his writing credit and the millions of dollars that came with it.

Jennifer Lopez ft. Pitbull – On The Floor

Pitbull, again. It does seem as though Mr. Worldwide has never produced a song with a scrap of originality.

The vocal melody on his and Jennifer Lopez’s hit On The Floor is taken directly from Llorando Se Fue, a song by the Bolivian band Los Kjarkas.

Coolio ft. L.V. – Gangsta’s Paradise

Coolio’s biggest-ever hit, Gangsta’s Paradise, was interpolated from Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song, Pastime Paradise. The words in the chorus were changed to reflect the gangster element of the song, rather than Wonder’s original lamenting of materialism.

Coolio isn’t the only artist to do their own thing with the song, with Mary J. Blige and Weird Al Yankovich also creating their own versions.