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Yesterday I heard on the radio that the UK crooner Sam Smith has been ordered to pay royalties to singer/songwriter Tom Petty. It seems the former's hit song "Stay With Me" bears too strong a resemblance to the Heartbreaker's 1989 classic "I Won't Back Down." The settlement also included a writing credit. Of course if Smith wins a Grammy Petty won't share the award since he didn't contribute anything new to the song. The DJ who reported news of the settlement mentioned other artists who had borrowed from classic hits. Vanilla Ice, for example, in his 1990 hit "Ice, Ice Baby" took the riff from "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie and made it his own. In a deft legal maneuver, Ice's lawyers were able to prove that because the beat differed by one note it was not technically the same. Ice won the suit.

It got me thinking about other songs I've heard that sounded familiar, some vaguely so, others downright obviously. Will Smith, for example, strung together a series of hit songs in the late 90s, all of which sampled from classic disco.  Of course he gave the original artists credit (and a portion of his profits) so it his creative license never made headlines. I'm referring to such hits as "MIB," for example, and "Gettin' Jiggy with It," as well as a personal favorite, "Miami," which took the Whispers' "And the Beat Goes On" and set it to Smith's own lyrics. So I played that '79 hit. And walked down memory lane. Of course the memories were vague. I had been only 6 years old at the time. But how I loved to dance! In Ms. Matlow's 4th grade class, when I was 9, my three friends and I would get up in front of the class and dance to Michael Jackson hits. His Thriller had just come out. Man, could we move! Legends in our own minds.

I don't dance enough. Sure if a catchy tune comes on I'll move a little, usually when I'm alone. But I should do it more. We all should. If it is good enough for the Fresh Prince... So let the beat go on, and catch a load of that woman in the gold tight pants. She sure can move!


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