For most bands, writing a chart topping hit song is the ultimate test of artistic ability. For some, however, it’s a way to see just how much they can steal and (usually) still get away with it. These are some of the most popular bands of all time who completely ripped off their biggest song.
Green Day, “American Idiot”
By the early 2000s, Green Day had largely lost their mainstream appeal and were desperate to pursue a new direction. The breakthrough came when a friend of Billie Joe Armstrong gifted the frontman a “My First Guitar” learning guidebook, from which Armstrong directly lifted the melody and most of the lyrics to “American Idiot.”
The Beatles, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”
Despite John Lennon’s claim that he wrote the song after being inspired by a drawing his son made, sources close to the dirty, bespectacled thief confirmed that the lyrics were stolen from a letter Eric Clapton wrote him in which Clapton uses the moniker “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” to refer to Ringo.
The B-52s, “Rock Lobster”
Fred Schneider admitted in a 2002 Rolling Stone interview how he shamelessly stole the concept behind the song:
“I was at nude beach next to a toxic waste dump and there was this guy there just plucking away on a guitar and singing about, oh, whatever was around – mostly deformed nudists and animals horribly mutated by the toxic chemicals. I thought it was catchy, so I wrote it all down, added in a few bikinis for good taste and we had a hit.”
Radiohead’s biggest hit was originally an old Norwegian folk song about a trickster grinch named Crepjinepjon who sneaks into the homes of lonely children and leaves them gifts of fish and birch bark. Thom Yorke revised the lyrics so that Crepjinepjon was in high school and had acne scars, thus forever changing 90s sad-rock.
Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”
This combative ballad of class struggle and racial disharmony started as a commercial jingle for a regional brand of non-scarring laundry detergent. Original lyrics read “Fight the power… of ground-in blood and dirt stains.”
Everclear, that song with all the “na na na na” bullshit in it
Honestly, we didn’t even bother researching this one. It’s just so stolen it’s not even good.
Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Freddie Mercury and Brian May quite literally stole “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the night they freebased ephedrine and hijacked Elton John’s tour van. On the van’s dashboard the completed song was already recorded to a cassette, having also been stolen by John earlier that day. The original artist is unknown and presumed murdered.
Oasis, two irritating British guys beating’ the shit out of each other
The Gallagher brothers’ most popular act, being belligerent assholes who beat the fuck out each other, was ripped off directly from vaudeville duo The Archibalds. The duo saw some local success in the 1930s but failed to break through to the mainstream, and years later Oasis would capitalize on their routine by stealing their biggest hit involving shouting profanity through a fog of gin breath and frail British fists.
Smash Mouth, “All Star”
Though they’ve never admitted it, internet sleuths discovered in 2010 that the lyrics to “All Star” directly correlate to the inscription from every inspirational Hallmark card from 1999.
Nickelback, all of it
Shortly after converting to voodoo, Chad Kroger tearfully confessed “we stole from the very beginning, everything. When we started the band we had one rule: do whatever the Foo Fighters do, but bad.”