Thursday, May 29, 2014

After her “conscious uncoupling" divorce, and complaining how being a movie star is harder than being a working mother, Gwenyth Paltrow compared her online critics' comments to war. In a related story, Paltrow’s publicist quit to become Donald Sterling's publicist.

And some people think celebrities are out of touch. How dare they? 

Since you asked:

Re: the Spirit claiming Led Zeppelin stole their opening riff from “Taurus” for “Stairway to Heaven.”

Heard the Spirit version and, um, yeah, they are quite similar. Was it stolen? Not convinced. If you have an acoustic guitar tuned to the same key and you are playing the same chord with finger picks, one note at a time, it is going to sound kind of similar.

But that is just one chord. If they start putting the same different chords in the same order? That is when it gets fishy. 

Not that stealing doesn’t happen. In comedy it happens all the time. Steve Miller was sued successfully by many artists, including the Eagles. (Ironic because the Eagles stole songs all the time, even from each other. Ask their former guitarist, Don Felder, about “Victim of Love”)

When one way-less famous band accuses a really famous band of stealing their un-famous song and making it famous, part of me wonders;

“Uh, OK, but, if it was stolen note-for-note, as you claim, why wasn’t your song famous?”

When harmonica great, Little Walter, plugged a mic into a guitar amplifier at Chess Records' studio in Chicago, circa 1958, and put his harmonica right on the mic and blasted out single notes, he invented, out of whole cloth, the modern lead rock harmonica. 

Does that mean when Robert Plant plays "When the Levee Breaks" or Mick Jagger plays "Midnight Rambler," are they ripping-off Little Walter?

Yes. And no. And yes. And no. No. That's my final answer. 

Little Walter did not write, play, record and promote, using all their hard-earned fame "When the Levee Breaks" or "Midnight Rambler." Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones did. 

Yes, Willie Dixon did successfully sue Led Zeppelin over "Whole Lotta Love." His "You Need Love" sounded vastly different, but the lyrics were almost the same. Reportedly the mistake was made by the record company, not the band members. They knew those were Willy's lyrics. Willy never got the proper legal and financial attribution. Until he sued. 

It sounds so heinous to say a giant rock star stole a song from some poor little struggling artist. Most of the times, unless it is Steve Miller, it is not true. 

Take a joke, for example. When 50 Cent air-mailed his New York Mets opening pitch ten yards from the catcher, every comedy writer in the country made a joke about him signing with the Mets. 

But if I wrote that joke and said the Mets signed 50 Cent to a four-year, ten million dollar deal? And another joke references a four-year, ten million dollar deal? That joke was stolen. 

Personally, I would love it if, say, a Robin Williams - a rumored notorious joke thief - stole one of my jokes. I would lawyer up and go after those deep pockets faster than you can say;

 "50 Cent throws like a rapper." 

Now that I think about, I am going to sue Led Zeppelin for stealing my idea for "Fool in the Rain." No, I didn't exactly write a song like it, but I did know a fool, and he got caught in the rain. A lot. 

So . . . OK, it's me, but still . . .