Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
83

The Definitive List Of White Music Stolen By Black People

Last week, Onion A.V. Club writer Noel Murray complained about the trend of people rejecting things—food, films, music—as being “for white people.” “The ‘white people are square and bland’ gag is an old one, and for the most part, it’s both harmless and healthy,” Murray wrote. “But increasingly, people aren’t sniping about ‘whiteness’ to be funny, or even defiant—at least not entirely. They’re using the term as a form of criticism, meant to be dismissive. … ‘That sounds like music for white people,’ is another way of saying, ‘That can’t be any good.’ And I do have a problem with that.”

To some degree, we trio of black people agrees with Murray—white people aren’t always lame. In fact, studies show that only about 35 percent of the white population is hopelessly uncool, compared to 27 percent of the black population.

To promote a more perfect harmony between blacks and whites, we’ve put together a list of music taken by black musicians from white musicians. While we're confident this list won’t eliminate all the racial tension currently dividing America, we hope it lends some credence to Murray’s protestations about white stuff being written off as boring. As you can tell from looking below, that's simply not the case. White people: Frequently not as dull as you might think.

TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS

Bing Crosby To Otis Redding

ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER

Bob Dylan To Jimi Hendrix

STILLNESS IS THE MOVE

Dirty Projectors To Solange

BLAME IT ON THE BOOGIE

Michael "Mick" Jackson To Michael Jackson

(Note: We've broken this into pages solely to keep from breaking anyone's browser.)

83 Comments / Post A Comment

Multiphasic (#411)

Both "96 Tears" and "She's About a Mover" were written by hispanic people…

Multiphasic (#411)

Which proves a very important point. But I'm not telling you what that is.

Cord_Jefferson (#2,111)

@Multiphasic Fair point about "96 Tears," but, based on what I've read, Doug Sahm was a white dude:

"It’s almost impossible to classify Sahm and his music as one style or another. Country, rock, Western swing, Tex-Mex, polka, and blues all form part of the Sir Douglas mix. Sahm himself said, 'I’m a part of Willie Nelson‘s world and at the same time I’m a part of the Grateful Dead‘s. I don’t ever stay in one bag.' He continued, 'I (used to) play steel guitar with Alvin Crow and they (called) me Wayne Douglas. I have all these aliases. Wayne Douglas. Doug Saldaña. Saldaña is the name the Mexicans gave me. They said that I had so much Mexican in me that I needed a Mexican name.'"

http://blog.chron.com/40yearsafter/2008/12/doug-sahm-on-the-cover-of-the-rolling-stone/

maddieD (#9,798)

@Multiphasic Doug Sahm was from San Antonio, which automatically makes him Mexican. And to make things more complicated, he grew up on the east side, which also makes him black. Basically, what I'm saying is that Doug Sahm was an incredibly cool dude.

Multiphasic (#411)

@Cord_Jefferson Ahh, always thought Sahm was hispanic. You never really expect an anglo dude to attempt to pull off a bolo unironically. So ne'er mind! (But! In the name of Winning Arguments on the Internet [I am late for class already]: Augie Meyers was essential to SDQ and has been Sahm's right hand man since forever, and is most certainly hispanic.)

iantenna (#5,160)

@Multiphasic doug sahm is post-racial.

iantenna (#5,160)

also, he is my favorite american of all-time. RIP.

G.@twitter (#16,959)

@Multiphasic ? & The Mysteryans, not Doug Sahm. And the lead guy, Question Mark, is indeed of Mexican ancestry. Also half martian.

Ushe Kimi@facebook (#215,442)

"Stole"? Aren't we lynching today? I am sure somebody pays somebody royalties for the rights of music in a commercial production. Your headline is insulting and completely negates an otherwise quasi-interesting survey where typically the black singer's cover is better than the original performance.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@Ushe Kimi@facebook And I'll bet this list isn't actually definitive, either.

holycalamity (#1,234)

@Ushe Kimi@facebook Have you ever tried talking with your tongue in your cheek? You can make pretty cool noises!

roboloki (#1,724)

@Ushe Kimi@facebook we're only allowed to perform lynchings when we wear shorts and we are not allowed to wear shorts.

melis (#1,854)

@roboloki I BET CORD JEFFERSON ISN'T EVEN WEARING CORDS RIGHT NOW

Tulletilsynet (#333)

@boyofdestiny
When we finally make people start giving back all the stolen music, that's going to be a mess.

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

@melis – Slacks Jefferson? Jorts Jefferson?

Matt (#26)

Imma let you finish but the Nina Simone version of Mr. Bojangles was the best version of all time.

@Matt Oh god yes.

iantenna (#5,160)

JOHN HOLT WILL SEE YOU IN HIS OFFICE

mmmcheese (#229,356)

@Matt Every Nina Simone version is the best version of all time.

The Bee Gees wrote a quite a bit of white people music stolen by black people. Off the top of my head, there's Al Green's "How Do You Mend a Broken Heart", Nina Simone's "To Love Somebody", and Destiny's Child's "Emotions".

dontannoyme (#24,319)

@holycalamityscreaminsanity How Do You Mend A Broken Heart is wonderful. Those Bee Gee boys really had it.

Matt (#26)

"My Favorite Things" opens a whole can of worms anyway; case in point, John Lennon's "Cold Turkey" vs. Freddie Hubbard's "Cold Turkey."

LondonLee (#922)

'Help Me Make It Through The Night' – Kris Kristofferson to Gladys Knight (and John Holt)

'Trans Europe Express' – Kraftwerk to Afrika Bambaata and The Soul Sonic Force (sort of)

GailPink (#9,712)

The Beatles "We Can Work It Out" As covered By Stevie Wonder. Pretty Great.

@GailPink In a similar vein, Earth, Wind & Fire's cover of "Got To Get You Into My Life."

mmmcheese (#229,356)

@GailPink Al Green's I Want To Hold Your Hand.

Poubelle (#214,283)

@Robert A George@facebook Also Ella Fitzgerald's cover of that. Simply sublime.

Rollo (#3,202)

Man, that "Jealous Guy" by Donny Hathaway… thanks, white and black people!

Rollo (#3,202)

+ Bettye LaVette (esp. "Heart of Gold")

6h057 (#1,914)

"[Group A] did this better than [group B]" is about as interesting as shaving pubic hair.

GailPink (#9,712)

Also, British Punk Pop Band XTC titled its 1978 debut album "White Music." Which, yes.

everybody stole everything frm Little Richard, according to Little Richard

beatbeatbeat (#3,187)

I dunno if it's entirely relevant to this thread but Boney M's version of "Painter Man" is really great
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BhIwytZWbg

Wait. What about Pink Cadillac? Bruce Springsteen to Natalie Cole.

Brenda@twitter (#22,020)

Does Lebanese count as white? Andy Kim (who co-wrote "sugar sugar") is Lebanese-Canadian. But I did see him at an Arcade Fire concert once.

Rachel B@twitter (#232,898)

I Can Love You Like That: John Michael Montgomery –> All-4-One!

rocknrollunicorn (#12,570)

@Rachel B@twitter Bwahaha, this is definitely my favorite entry.

Trilby (#3,897)

Thank you for redressing this grievous wrong! BTW, I think there were a lot more Beatles songs covered by Black artists than what you listed.

Leon (#6,596)

@Trilby – Probably not, the title said this was definitive.

bubbadubba (#232,900)

What about rap music as stolen square dance music? Swing your partner and doe-si-doe gangsta.

hman (#53)

Terence Trent D'Arby is waiting for anyone's call.

Why is this a story? Whites have been writing music for African Americans for generations, no one denies that. The only potential issue that might be interpreted as derogatory, if you will speaks to the certain je ne sais quoi that is added to the music when sung by African Americans. Still, the travesty in history is not the music that was sung by African Americans but the royalties and publishing rights that were stolen FROM African Americans. Address that head-on and we might be able to begin a genuine dialogue towards healing. How old are the authors of the piece, three?

Bittersweet (#765)

@Ava Gabrielle-Wise@facebook: And Cord Jefferson still isn't wearing cords, damnit.

C_Webb (#855)

@Bittersweet The African Americans DO bring the je ne sais quoi …

Amphora (#231,928)

@Ava Gabrielle-Wise@facebook Do you need someone to summarize the subtext of articles like this for you? Cause I need a job…

errikke (#232,946)

@Ava Gabrielle-Wise@facebook This is the best post here…. to say that one artist covers another artist's song or material is "stealing" is just silly at best…. no one accuses Shakespeare of stealing and all his work is his spin or cover of previous authored material… but address the theft of royalities from predominantly african-american artists by mostly non african-americans, thats the primary and most important issue….. and by the way, how many white guitarists owe a major debt to chuck berry and jimi hendrix?… they've stolen almost all of their respective guitar riffs

@Ava Gabrielle-Wise@facebook I just thought it was an interesting article,cos i never realised any of the songs were by different artists.Dont think you should start looking too deeply at ai.

Bill Wright@twitter (#232,914)

Liquid Liquid's "Cavern" on 99 Records was lifted for Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines" on Sugar Hill in the early 80s–there was even a lawsuit.

griffryan0 (#232,836)

\

dontannoyme (#24,319)

Can I give you anything by Carole King and redone by Aretha. Maybe (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.

Scat music, which according to SCTV "crawled its way out of the church basements of southern Iowa."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKsDwlQ-HP0

AmosBanks (#232,945)

I don't see a lot of these as stolen. Stolen is when the original artist hears their song performed and attributed to somebody else. Can't consider Walk This Way as a stolen song when Run DMC and Aerosmith are in the same video. Whitney paid for the right to sing Dolly's song and Dolly made some $$ in the last few months when the song spiked after Whitney's death. Far from theft.

dontannoyme (#24,319)

@AmosBanks Fair point re not theft. What Dolly did not get was the kudos for writing the song – not that people thought Whitney wrote it – just that people don't realise what an amazing song-writer Dolly is. Also Whitney slaughtered that song.

hassett (#232,952)

I don't see "Assignment Song" — Jan & Lorraine to Nina Simone.

Yze Guy@facebook (#232,955)

These were not STOLEN, they were COVERED. There is a MAJOR difference there and it changes the whole idea of the article! James Brown & Little Richard's music was STOLEN. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, but the premise was way off base.

dontannoyme (#24,319)

@Yze Guy@facebook what do you mean? Genuine question. Taken and not attributed/paid for? I don't know this story.

jhcate (#232,967)

Did anyone mention Lori Lieberman's Killing Me Softly?

dontannoyme (#24,319)

@jhcate One time.

Dani (#16,562)

The first time I got to the harmonica solo of All Along the Watchtower, after growing up with Hendrix's version, I laughed so so hard. (and I love harmonica solos usually, really!)

What? No "Star-Spangled Banner"?

Sorry, but Bertie Flack has nothing on S and the G-funk.

Also, Boney M's horrendous cover of one of The Seeker's most beautiful songs, 'The Carnival is Over' (yeah yeah, Russian folk song)

dontannoyme (#24,319)

Also "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" from Jerome Kern via the Platters to Nat King Cole.

I must confess that I'm not sure whether you were being tongue-in-cheek with this comparison of white originals vs. black covers. If that's not the case, this little project is unfair and kind of offensive. I've listened to a huge, wide-ranging amount of music over my lifetime and never had a problem enjoying, for instance, the original, showtune version of "My Favorite Things" and Coltrane's celebrated improv on the same. What has made American popular music great is the ongoing conversation of musical artists from different heritages. It's Louis Armstrong synthesizing the music of his slave ancestors and the oom-pah-pah brass of Europe, and it's George Gershwin bringing his classical training to bear on the blues and giving singers of all races "Summertime" to interpret endlessly. It's Ricky Nelson covering Fats Domino and Aretha Franklin covering Paul Simon. What does it mean to pit Bing Crosby's mellow version of "Try a Little Tenderness" against Otis Redding's more "soulful" reading? A black artist from Bing's heyday wouldn't have sung it like Otis did either. And some of the alleged bestings are truly dubious. I love Stevie Wonder, but his version of "We Can Work It Out" isn't even one of his best records, let alone a ringing triumph over the Beatles' original. The notion that every song can be made better by more emotonal rawness or by gospel or jazz-like inflection is absurd. It's one of the reasons why we have to endure so much oversinging on American Idol and The Voice. Some songs are actually better sung straight, no chaser.

Amphora (#231,928)

@Noel Holston@facebook I don't see how, after all the years spent talking and writing and rehashing the whitewashing of black music and musicians in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, you can POSSIBLY think this is NOT tongue in cheek.

BigDion (#233,010)

All I got from this was that white people music sucks and black people make it sound good.

dontannoyme (#24,319)

@BigDion you need to listen to Dolly a bit more.

Max Clarke (#3,635)

Seconding Afrikaa Bambaataa stealing the melody of Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express" (and the beats from Kraftwerk's "Numbers") for "Planet Rock". That was a very important theft — crucial to the development of both hip-hop and techno.

And it actually was theft… albeit later made right with the proper payment of royalties.

Wopiee (#233,090)

You have to admit, most of the songs sound much better with the covers, that's why they get more play

Lady Pugilist (#233,112)

Actually, Whitney Houston had to *purchase* from Dolly Parton the rights to "I Will Always Love You." So this music was not "stolen." In fact, upon Houston's death, it was reported that Dolly Parton actually stood to *profit* further from the anticipated increased sales of Houston's iconic rendition of this song.

The long-standing hue and cry about "black music being stolen by whites" has to do with white artists (Elvis, et al) recording songs which were originally written and sung by black blues and jazz artists, who received no compensation for their creative work, and then went on to live (and eventually die) in poverty. Bonnie Raitt has founded a charity to support these black blues and jazz artists in their old age.

So, funny tongue-in-cheek article; I get the joke. But in some cases, it's missing some key facts.

Nancy Sin (#232,943)

@Lady Pugilist Do you actually get the joke? Because it sounds like you are missing the point entirely.

Don't forget about Chuck Berry stealing Johnny B. Goode from Marty McFly!

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

@Alistair Jaghammer@twitter – Damn you, Marvin Berry!

theres nothing new under the sun everybody steals everyones stuff…. and I listened to Mick Jackson and he had no chance against Micheals Boogie

truthteller33 (#242,263)

You people are freakin' idiots. Covering a song is not the same as stealing a genre of music and excluding the originators out. Elvis is called the king when he's nothing more than a blatant ripoff of the Memphis black blues and early 50's rock he watched. To hear people speak of Glenn Miller when he couldn't hold a candle to Duke Ellington is outrageous. And as it was stated, you can't steal something you're paying royalties to. Dolly Parton still gets checks from Whitney's cover of "I Will Always Love You".

This is another in a long line of sad attempts by white people to improperly 'balance' out history of mistreatment against blacks in America by citing examples that are not anywhere NEAR equitable. SMH

Trixsee (#243,295)

A lot of the same artists that these Black artists supposedly "ripped off" were heavily influenced by Black artists themselves. So it all comes full circle. If anyone ever bothered to read a book that chronicled the history of American music, they would learn that just about every genre of music that became popular in America and in the rest of the world, can trace its roots back to the Black American community. Jazz, rock and roll, blues, country,gospel, funk, soul, and rhythm and blues, all have their beginnings with Black America. Even major rock artists like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin admit to being heavily influenced by Black blues artists. Let's just wake up and face the music so to speak. Without the major contributions that Black Americans have made to the development of American music, you would not have your beloved rock and roll or even country or bluegrass for that matter. So get over yourselves. Jazz may have had elements of European and African music, but Black people managed to take those elements and breathe new life into it and make it something entirely unique. Whether you like it or not, Black people and their cultural contributions are at the root of most popular music today. Even electronic genres such as house and techno started in the mid-west were started by Black Americans and heavily influenced by disco and African music styles. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. All this post has proved to me is that even when Black people cover the songs of White artists, they manage to make it better than the original, and they manage to make it their own.

Nancy Sin (#232,943)

The comments on this article are so fucking dense that the spambots are refreshing in comparison. Great list.

lily munster (#252,881)

You left out Aretha Franklin's Natural Woman written by Carole King

carmatogo (#258,862)

You people need to look up the definition of STEALING. When an artist gets paid for the original rights to their music, and another artist performs it…that is not stealing. Typical white guilt attempting to project false motive and a lack of morals that they themselves possess. Shame on you.

jimmie higgins (#258,883)

Otis Redding's "Satisfaction," Hendrix's "Hey Joe," Love's "My Little Red Book," and Toots and the Maytals' "Louie Louie."

jimmie higgins (#258,883)

Also, Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia on My Mind," which everybody would agree Ray Charles owns now…

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