Darryl Hall, of Hall and Oates, once told a story of Michael Jackson confessing to him during the recording session for “We Are The World”:
He sort of clung to Diana Ross pretty much, but at one point I was off to the side and he came over to me and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I stole ‘Billie Jean’ from you,” and I said, “It’s all right, man, I just ripped the base line off, so can you!”
Here’s “I Can’t Go For That”:
And here’s “Beat It”:
That was 1985. In 2019, copyright lawyers and estates are in a feeding frenzy, with songwriter Ryan Tedder telling the BBC, “The odds of getting sued in this day and age are so high, we’re going to get to a point where nobody can write anything.”
Meanwhile, Carly Rae Jepsen is over here getting Mickie Mouse to sign contracts:
Here is an incredibly Carly Rae Jepsen story about one of the songs on her new album, Dedicated: During a writing session, Jepsen and some of her collaborators (“all musical-theater nerds”) were talking about their love of “He Needs Me,” the breathless little Harry Nilsson–penned reverie that Shelley Duvall sings in Robert Altman’s 1980 musical Popeye. They started riffing on a modern, more full-bodied rendition of Olive Oyl’s love theme, “funked it out,” in Jepsen’s words. She loved what they came up with, but people on her team told her that Disney owned the rights to the Popeye soundtrack—and just try to get Disney to license something. Undeterred, Jepsen “drove to Disneyland with a fake contract for Mickey Mouse, got the mouse to sign it, then sent a photo to her record label who got onto Disney and pushed it through.” And that is Carly Rae Jepsen in a nutshell: So wholesome and nerdy in a very specific way that she is actually kind of a renegade.
Late capitalism, man. Strange times.