The blogosphere and Page Six are abuzzin about the uncanny similarities between the Red Hot Chili Pepper's recent chart-topper "Dani California" and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' "Mary Jane's Last Dance."
The songs have the exact same chord structure, tempo, and (at the beginning at least) a "girl from rural locale with a mama" lyrical formula.
Let's take a listen:
Mary Jane's Last Dance
She grew up in an Indiana town
Had a good lookin mama, never was around
So she grew up tall and she grew up right
With them Indiana boys on them Indiana nights
Gettin born in the state of Mississippi
Papa was a copper and Mama was a hippie
In Alabama she was swinging hammer
Price that you pay when you break the panorama (??)
A bit of closer inspection reveals that the common bond between the songs: freakishly bearded super-producer Rick Rubin.
Now, are the songs similar? Of course. Can you copyright chord changes? No, you cannot. And this is not like the famous hip-hop sampling lawsuits against De La Soul or the Beastie Boys -- no one is arguing that the Chili Peppers cut and pasted the actual audio from the Heartbreakers.
What it most closely resembles is the lengthy legal battle over the similarities between George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" and the Chiffons' "He's So Fine." A judge found Harrison guilty of copyright infringement and he never saw a penny from "My Sweet Lord," which was the first solo Beatles album to reach the top of the charts.
"I still don't understand how the courts aren't filled with similar cases -- as 99 percent of the popular music that can be heard is reminiscent of something or other," Harrison wrote in his autobiography.
And amid today's hyper-vigilant copyright environment, perhaps they will be...
UPDATE - Some radio DJs in Delaware have a lengthy segment on Dani vs Mary Jane