Without over explaining this quote, I thought instead I’d give an excellent example. I’m often amazed at the credit great artist seem to accumulate from their work. It’s most often the prolific nature of a great artist I admire. To be creative, seemingly all the time, or at least over a long period is admirable. Admittedly, I don’t fully appreciate the creative well from which they draw. Probably because I know they all steal…
Come Together’ is me — writing obscurely around an old Chuck Berry thing. I left the line ‘Here comes old flat-top.’ It is nothing like the Chuck Berry song, but they took me to court because I admitted the influence once years ago. I could have changed it to ‘Here comes old iron face,’ but the song remains independent of Chuck Berry or anybody else on earth. The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook — ‘Come Together’ was an expression that Tim Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and I tried, but I couldn’t come up with one. But I came up with this, ‘Come Together,’ which would’ve been no good to him — you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right? Leary attacked me years later, saying I ripped him off. I didn’t rip him off. It’s just that it turned into ‘Come Together.’ What am I going to do, give it to him? It was a funky record — it’s one of my favorite Beatle tracks, or, one of my favorite Lennon tracks, let’s say that. It’s funky, it’s bluesy, and I’m singing it pretty well. I like the sound of the record. You can dance to it. I’ll buy it!
—John Lennon, 1980
Here is Chuck Berry’s song “You Can’t Catch Me.” At about 1:06 you can hear the line and the groove John Lennon stole.
Here is John Lennon’s re-artistry of the Chuck Berry tune.
And sometimes the “stolen” version is better than the original. In my opinion, this would be the correct way to obscurely write a song around another artists work. Each piece stand on it’s own. Both are great works.
Now want a bad example?
Here’s the amazing song “People Get Ready” by Curtis Mayfield.
Oh and let’s see what John Mayer did to it.
Real nice there, John. You are not a great artist.