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Author Topic:  Similarity "Rocky Top" and Your the Reason God Made Oklahoma
Darrell Criswell

 

From:
Maryland, USA
Post  Posted 11 Feb 2024 3:37 pm    
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I just read Bordeaux and Felix Bryant sued Larry Collins for copyright infringement and won over the song "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma". They said it was almost the same as "Rocky Top" and stolen.

The two sound nothing alike to me.

Any other thoughts?
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post  Posted 11 Feb 2024 3:45 pm    
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They won the lawsuit. Go to YouTube and play the video of "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma"... and increase the speed to 2X (via the little gear icon on YouTube) and you'll hear the similarity in the verses. It's basically the same melody and chords as Rocky Top. You need to speed up the song to hear the similarity.
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Darrell Criswell

 

From:
Maryland, USA
Post  Posted 12 Feb 2024 7:27 am    
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Was there any evidence the son was really copied or paraphrased. I hear a lot of stuff that sounds similar and these two songs seem very different. Are the chords really the same, they are in different keys and stylings, I will have to transpose the key of one of them to see if it is the same.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post  Posted 12 Feb 2024 8:00 am    
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Sometimes the courts go by the sheet music only. In other words, they don't allow the jury to hear the two songs. I think the law on that has changed over the years, and I'm not up on the current law. And keep in mind that members of the jury are likely Not musicians.

If you speed up "Oklahoma" you will hear that the melody of the verse is almost exactly like Rocky Top. And the sheet music would probably bear that out (and evidently it did). I don't think the keys matter in copyright cases.

Yes, the songs are different styles, Oklahoma is a medium tempo ballad and Rocky Top is a faster bluegrass song. But the melody and the chords of the verse are basically the same "on paper".
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Darrell Criswell

 

From:
Maryland, USA
Post  Posted 12 Feb 2024 8:42 am    
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Doug: Thanks, do you really believe it was copied?
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post  Posted 12 Feb 2024 9:27 am    
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No, I don't think it was deliberately copied. There is something in the law called "subconscious plagiarism", where the songwriter did not intentionally steal someone else's melody, but he likely heard the melody somewhere, sometime in the past and did not realize that he was borrowing from an earlier song.
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Bob Shilling


From:
Berkeley, CA, USA
Post  Posted 12 Feb 2024 12:16 pm    
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My Sweet Lord" and "Steel Guitar Rag" come to mind as examples of subconscious plagiarism.

I tried speeding up "You're the Reason...", and it does sound like RT. But I thought the comparison was even more obvious when I slowed down RT.
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Ben Lawson

 

From:
Brooksville Florida
Post  Posted 12 Feb 2024 10:37 pm    
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How many people could have ever noticed a similarity between those two songs? Possibly the writers of Rocky Top were low on funds.
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Bill McCloskey

 

From:
Nanuet, NY
Post  Posted 13 Feb 2024 8:51 am    
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The verse melody for both songs is identical. The bridge a little less so . Hard to believe the Oklahoma writers didn't know Rocky Top, so I can see why they lost.
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Howard Parker


From:
Maryland
Post  Posted 13 Feb 2024 8:57 am    
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Ben Lawson wrote:
How many people could have ever noticed a similarity between those two songs? Possibly the writers of Rocky Top were low on funds.


Considering who they were, it's not likely.

h
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Howard Parker


From:
Maryland
Post  Posted 13 Feb 2024 9:01 am     Re: Similarity
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Darrell Criswell wrote:
I just read Bordeaux and Felix Bryant


"Felice & Boudleaux"

For the sake of accuracy Very Happy
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Jerry Overstreet


From:
Louisville Ky
Post  Posted 13 Feb 2024 9:32 am    
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That's stretching things just a little too far. Many songs have the same or similar progressions. I'm really surprised they got a favorable ruling.
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Bill McCloskey

 

From:
Nanuet, NY
Post  Posted 13 Feb 2024 9:40 am    
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Quote:
Many songs have the same or similar progressions


You can't copyright a chord progression, but you can copyright the melody. Which is why so many songs are based on I Got Rhythm. The melody was clearly identical, hence the lawsuit.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2024 10:27 am    
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Doug Beaumier wrote:
No, I don't think it was deliberately copied. There is something in the law called "subconscious plagiarism", where the songwriter did not intentionally steal someone else's melody, but he likely heard the melody somewhere, sometime in the past and did not realize that he was borrowing from an earlier song.

This is what ended songwriting for me. Just about everything I thought was an original riff or lyric or melody I later discovered had been drawn up from the wellspring of music that I had heard in life somewhere before - as the Alabama song says, “In the corner of my mind / there’s a jukebox”.

It has been said that an original bar of music hasn’t been created in a thousand years (or at least since about 1990). Maybe so, but there probably are a thousand ways of playing an original bar of music. So rock on, everybody 😎


Last edited by Fred Treece on 19 Feb 2024 10:40 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jerry Overstreet


From:
Louisville Ky
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2024 10:39 am    
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I still think it's a stretch and a little petty of them. They would have not won an award in Jerry's court.

Last edited by Jerry Overstreet on 19 Feb 2024 10:41 am; edited 1 time in total
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2024 10:41 am    
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Yeah, Jerry. Agreed.
Melodies get copped, too. And it’s a good thing the 7 varieties of drum groove aren’t copyrighted.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2024 3:57 pm    
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I read somewhere that the court has a piano player play just the melody of the two songs for the jury. And that's all they go by... the sheet music, not the actual recordings. That's probably a good thing because most jurors are not musicians and they would not recognize similar melodies if the styles, the lyrics, the tempos, etc. were very different (as in this case). If a piano player played the melody of these two songs, one after the other (in the same key, same tempo) they would sound basically the same.
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Jerry Overstreet


From:
Louisville Ky
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2024 5:25 pm    
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Ths writing credits were originally Larry Collins/Sandy Pinkard...

I can't help thinking there must have been something deeper going on...I'd like to hear "the rest of the story" as who would have taken the time to break the tempo down for comparison.

Guess that's the just the smelly side of the music business....
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2024 5:44 pm    
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According to Wikipedia:

Quote:
Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, the writers of the song "Rocky Top", sued Collins and Pinkard for copyright infringement concerning this song, because the tune was similar to their song "Rocky Top". They won the lawsuit and are now often credited as having co-written the song.


So it looks like they split the Royalties.
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Bill McCloskey

 

From:
Nanuet, NY
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2024 5:46 pm    
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Do you really need to slow the tempo down to compare. To me it was obviously the same melody, regardless of the tempo. Rocky Top is played ad nauseum. I think it would defy credulity that the author of the oklahoma song didn't know he was ripping off the melody.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2024 7:15 pm    
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There is so much familiarity in the sound of trad country, I don’t see how anyone could sue anyone over basic melody. Especially if the melody is sung 40 bpm slower as a swing ballad instead of straight 8 uptempo bluegrass rhythm, as is the case with these two songs.

Honestly, how many of us have known both these songs forever and never drawn the parallel lines? I’m raising my hand. The B parts aren’t even close to the same. The lawsuit (which I was never aware of before today) was a cheap shot by Felice and Boudleaux - whose music I have loved. But if all they wanted was co-writing credits and associated royalties, I guess that’s okay, and Larry Collins got by a lot better than George Harrison did.
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Bill McCloskey

 

From:
Nanuet, NY
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2024 7:26 pm    
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Well for me, I've known rocky top for 45 years. I never heard the Oklahoma song until this thread.
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Jerry Overstreet


From:
Louisville Ky
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2024 7:42 pm    
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Quote:
Do you really need to slow the tempo down to compare.


Yes.
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Bill McCloskey

 

From:
Nanuet, NY
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2024 8:29 pm    
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Well, maybe because I never heard the Oklahoma song before but am very familiar with the Rocky Top. I heard the similarities immediately.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2024 11:09 pm    
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Of course I hear it now, Bill. I’m sure everyone reading this thread does. If somebody had pointed it out to me 43 years ago, I probably would have heard it instantly too. But in the big pop music salad that lived in my internal jukebox at the time, it went by pretty much unnoticed. Maybe if I had played or sung both of them, one right after the other, something would have clicked too.

I wonder how hard it would be to find another example like this in the trad country genre? Or Blues? Or Rap? (oops wait, no discernible melody. I wonder how the lawyers would pursue a plagiarism case in Rap? You know they’re thinking about it.)

Fun topic 🥴
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