it’s all a mystery…

Considering how much I love Cat Stevens and how much I love the Flaming Lips, I would have figured that I would have heard about this sooner, especially since this happened in 2003, but, well, I was a junior in college at the time and considering my life then, I preferred to just listen to both artists incessantly, mournfully deciding that both sang the story of my life so poignantly (cue wrist-to-the-forehead-motion…now).

Anyway, all that being said, I am shocked that I didn’t make this connection between the similarity between “Fight Test” and “Father and Son” before, especially considering how much each has (and continues to) resonate with me.

go fucking figure.

This brings me to (what I think is) an interesting point though–can you really accuse someone of “stealing” from another artist if they’re able to create something different that has a similar basis/sound of a work from another artist? I mean, sure, stealing/plagiarizing isn’t right, but there are only so many chords/there are only so many literary themes/human emotions that artists can draw from… is it really fair to say that only one person is the “owner” of a particular composition?

Now that it’s been brought to my attention, I definitely see the similarities between “Fight Test” and “Father and Song,” but that doesn’t make me feel that one is better than the other, or that The Lips song is any less awesome. I think both songs are beautiful and powerful and work on very different emotional levels. But was Wayne Cohen “ripping off” Cat Stevens? Or was he taking a similar musical composition/song structure and making it his own?

Maybe it’s because my background isn’t in music, but I don’t consider “Fight Test” to be plagiaristic, not because I doubt the similarity in the melody/chord progression, but because they are both able to stand on their own and convey their own feelings/emotions. I think plagiarism in the literary world is obvious and, quite literally, more black and white: if someone is lifting entire paragraphs of someone else’s thought, it’s difficult for the plagiarizer to make that their own, although I think it’s much more difficult to accuse one writer of lifting a theme/thought/emotion from another author simply because another author did it first and/or better (i.e., is every science fiction writer who writes about wizards or elves ripping off Tolkien? Does the fact that Tolkien penned these characters first make him the rightful “owner” and only one allowed to use them in stories? And does every writer who use them after Tolkien owe something to Tolkien, even if they may not have even read his work to begin with or had the intention of “copying” his work?)

In my opinion,  it’s easier to take samples/ideas from other musicians but to still make it an original, stand alone work  in any other art form (e.g. the popularity of music “sampling”). But maybe the issue in this case  isn’t is the similarity between the two–maybe it’s the fact that there wasn’t the proper acknowledgment/monetary compensation for Cat Stevens?

I really am interested in getting other people’s opinions on this one… enlighten me, people! Give me your thoughts, musicians and non-musicians alike!

(And in case you’re not familiar with one/both songs, they’re posted below… you’re welcome).

Flaming Lips:

Cat Stevens: