During Bruce Springsteen's keynote SXSW speech last night, he disclosed that, like countless artists and musical acts before him, he routinely lifted riffs from his predecessor's songs. So does this mean he's going to get sued by the RIAA for piracy or does that count as fair use?
Per The Boss himself,
For me, it was The Animals. ... "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" had a great bass riff, you know it had that-[plays riff on guitar]-and that was just a clock, a clock marking time. [sings the first few lines] That's every song I've ever written. "Badlands", "Prove It All Night", "Darkness" was filled with Animals. Youngsters, watch this one. I'll tell you how it's done right now. I took "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" [hums and strums the Animals riff, then transitions into his song Badlands]-It's the same fucking riff man. Listen up youngsters: this is how successful theft is accomplished.
And Springsteen is not alone. Michael Jackson lifted the bassline of Billie Jean from Hall and Oates who themselves lifted it from an earlier act. Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton both grew up imitating American blues guitarists like Robert Johnson, Lady GaGa has basically ripped off everything Madonna did in the '80s—hell, Moby would still just be a white whale if it weren't for this practice of building upon previous artists' works.
Image: The AP