350MC – Appropriation with Music

by alexmasonphotography

In some cases work has been appropriated without the appropriator actually realising they have done it and in other cases it is just deliberate which some would classify as theft. Kirby Ferguson mentions in his Ted talk ‘Embracing the remix’ that Bob Dylan who has often been described as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, musically and culturally has used the same melody in in his songs as that of another folk musician from before he was around and has even used the same lyrics as another artist in his famous song Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright. It has been estimated that 2/3rds of the melodies Bob Dylan used in his early songs were ‘borrowed’. I found another example of when somebody has borrowed a melody and put it in a song. It is difficult to find the balance between the remix and stealing and often it may not be stated clearly enough.

Listen to this classic Johnny cash song Ring of Fire

…and now listen to thisToots and the Maytals song – I Can’t Believe


… Notice the similarity?

It dawned on me that this has been happening for years. It used to be a common thing among folk musicians to copy melodies off one and other.

Tribute bands and musicians in the Radio 1 Live Lounge copy people all the time. On YouTube, videos of young up and coming musicians with a title like ‘John Smith – Clowns Parade (Original Song)’. When what it really is, is a song that has been written based on inspiration, melodies, themes and lyrics from other people’s songs. David Bowie was once asked in an interview if he would consider himself original and he said, “No no no I am a tasteful thief”. So is visual art not the same as stealing art that is music?