There are no rules when it comes to writing a song. If songs like Bohemian Rhapsody have taught us anything, it’s that you can get anything on the radio if you can make it interesting, and there have been more than a few bands that have put some of their musical tastes unique to radio. Some can give us things we’ve never heard before, and some like to wear their influences on their sleeves a little too much.
Although each of these songs was successful to some extent, sometimes you can tell that these bands took heavy inspiration from someone else’s song to write their own. That’s not to say they were just carbon copies or anything – sometimes the similarities can just be in the mood of a song or the way riffs are constructed – with artists looking to use their song to simply pay tribute to some of their favorite artists.
In some cases though, you can say there’s no shame in taking on the old guard of rock music, and that’s when the lawyers come calling to collect their copyrights. Rock music has been like the Wild West most of the time, but you just have to make sure you don’t find yourself hitting someone else’s note.
Every great pianist has a long history of passing through the sounds of classical music. Even if you want to sound like Jon Lord or Elton John, the only way to do that is to go through the various sonatas and fugues they learned back then. Of them all, Billy Joel was the real classic nerd, and he ended up turning one of his inspirations into a hit song in the process.
During the album An Innocent Man, Billy sought to make each song a tribute to one of his musical heroes, such as The Longest Time being a tribute to doo wop music and Uptown Girl being a loving tribute to the sounds of Franki Valli and The Four. Seasons. Tonight is a bit of a different beast here, as the track’s biggest influence – Beethoven – even received a writing credit due to the similarities. If you go back and listen to Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, you’ll hear the same melody from This Night
It’s not like Joel is just copying and pasting the LVB song or whatever, rocking the beat and pulling bits out to make it work with the beat he had. It’s blatant once you hear it, but it works incredibly well when you put it in the pop world. And with Beethoven not exactly at the top of the Billboard Top 100, most people won’t even realize the inspiration unless they’ve spied the song’s credits.
You see, kids, sometimes it helps to be careful in music class once in a while.