[Spencer Daily Reporter nameplate] Fog/Mist ~ 38°F  
High: 67°F ~ Low: 36°F
Tuesday, Sep. 16, 2014

War of words and riffs

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Most Baby Boomers, and maybe some members of Generation X, likely remember the Bellamy Brothers' 1979 country classic, "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body." Some of those listeners probably knew that phrase was made popular by Groucho Marx on his 1950s TV series, You Bet Your Life.

Members of Generation Y, also known as Millennials, likely do not know that history. When they hear Britney Spears' or Riz's take on the song -- both named "Hold It Against Me" -- they may think they're original works.

But, the Bellamy Brothers have spoken out against Spears' lyric, "If I said I want your body now, would you hold it against me?"

"Hey, Brit, if I said you ripped off our song, would you hold it against me?" Howard Bellamy said in a recent interview.

"If you listen to the lyrics of Britney Spears' new single, you'll find some major similarities," David Bellamy added. "... She's a talented gal. But professional, well, in all honesty, we feel completely ripped off. Where's the originality?"

It's funny they should say that considering they "originally" ripped off Groucho Marx in 1979 and only acknowledged it once. Most likely, they didn't mention Riz because, in all honesty, not many people know who he is.

But, if they wanted to get picky, they would have more of a gripe with Riz, whose song says, "If I said your body's beautiful like a dozen of the finest roses, if I said your lips are incredible moving up and down the floor, would you hold it against me?"

This claim of stolen words is nothing new. In August, the Beach Boys threatened to sue Katy Perry over her song "California Gurls," just one letter different from their 1965 anthem "California Girls." They specifically targeted rapper Snoop Dogg's line, "I really wish you all could be California girls," eerily similar to a line in the Beach Boys' version.

In addition to "stolen" words are the claims of "stolen" riffs. One that Generation X individuals, as well as most Millennials, should be familiar with is the stark similarity between the bass lines of David Bowie's "Under Pressure" and Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby."

A trip to a piano bar may also reveal several more "stolen" riffs. Here's a hint, Weezer is responsible for at least two.

There is no end in sight for "copied" and "stolen" works. In addition to music, remakes have become the norm in both movies and television shows -- think "True Grit" and "Hawaii Five O."

Not only are such pieces of media completely remade at times, but certain models are replicated. For example, there are numerous versions of CSI and Law and Order. Even "based on true story" movies like "Ray" and "Walk the Line" seem to travel down the same sort of story line, even though they are documenting two totally different music legends.

Where has all the originality gone?

Are humans so finite in their ideas that the best they can do is spruce up a classic (or in some cases, mediocre films that barely cleared the box office)?

Here's to the originality and ingenuity of the next generation of musicians, filmmakers and TV show producers.

That originality and ingenuity may not actually exist anymore, but one can hope.

Gabe Licht
Junior Moments