Stealing and Borrowing in Music

I actually really like The Strokes, but I can’t help but watch the above Buzzcocks video for Everybody’s Happy Nowadays without noticing that the similarities both visually and sonically with The Strokes are uncanny.  I’m not saying that The Strokes haven’t done anything original, or that they haven’t added their own additions to the equation, but there is definitely a large debt here.  (If they didn’t borrow consciously or unconsciously then the universe is doing strange things!)  My point is that even critically acclaimed artists steal, borrow, and pay tribute to those that came before them.  In the world of the internet too often we forget that.  The Rolling Stones stole a lot, especially early on, from black blues musicians.  Even artists that seem to be completely unique usually arrive their by combining things that came before in an interesting way, or get their by sheer accident.  Sometimes reaching new ground is the result of different personalities coming together that push and pull against each other.  Other times it might be that some kind of new technological breakthrough is there to be exploited.  Their are very few true geniuses in the arts, as in life itself.  What we should ask is that an artist is trying to communicate their truth, that they are at least reaching.  Although there is always a huge debt to those that do seem to reinvent the wheel, I’m often happy to hear an original singing voice, a unique way with words, someone that combines instruments in a way that is a little different, or a new and memorable melody.  As long as there some kind of imagination going on, and not just a complete recreation of some past work, there is a chance.

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