Pop songs that borrow melodies from classical music or old, public domain songs

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Turnaround, May 23, 2010.

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  1. Turnaround

    Turnaround Member your mama warned you about Thread Starter

    New York
    Pop songs that borrow melodies from classical music or old, public domain songs.

    I'll start the thread with two examples:

    * * *

    Elvis Presley "It's Now or Never". The melody comes from "'O Sole Mio", a Neapolitan song written in 1898. Elvis came by the tune through Tony Martin's "There's No Tomorrow", which also borrows the melody from "'O Sole Mio".


    'O Sole Mio (sung by Mario Lanza):

    * * *

    Eric Carmen "All By Myself". The verse borrows from 2nd movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. (Carmen lifted melodies from classical music in other songs too.)



    Wikipedia's entry on this song says: "Carmen believed [Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2] was in the public domain. Having found it was not, only after the record had been issued, Carmen had to come to an agreement with the Rachmaninoff estate. Early versions, therefore, only give writing credits to Carmen, but later versions also credit Rachmaninoff."
  2. jgreen

    jgreen Well-Known Member

    St. Louis,MO.
    The Toys' "Lovers Concerto" was the melody of a famous classical piece that I'm too tired to look up.
  3. dale 88

    dale 88 Errand Boy for Rhythm

    west of sun valley
    Madrid -- Nat King Cole [tune borrowed from Bizet's Carmen. Between Cole and Count Basie's band, it does swing. Withdrawn from circulation, some say because of copyright, but I think it may have been mostly because of the BBC :thumbsdn: banning any pop song derived from the classics.]
  4. Glenn Christense

    Glenn Christense Foremost Beatles expert... on my block

  5. Grant

    Grant In holiday HELL

    United States
    Barry Manilow's "Could It be Magic" was based on Chopin's "Prelude in C Minor, Opus 28, Number 20
  6. John54

    John54 Senior Member

    Burlington, ON
    Joy by Apollo 100 and the coda of Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited by the Move used the same old Bach piece. The latter included another classical piece; Sorcerer's Apprentice or something?
  7. TLMusic

    TLMusic Musician & record collector

    "A Lover's Concerto" is based on Minuet in G Major from the Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook. For many years the piece was attributed to J.S. Bach, but more recent research suggests that Christian Petzold was the actual composer.

    P.S. I once had the privilege of playing keyboards for Barbara Harris (lead singer of The Toys) at a concert outside of Cleveland. "A Lover's Concerto" sure changes keys a lot!
  8. dale 88

    dale 88 Errand Boy for Rhythm

    west of sun valley
    A couple of hits from Chopin:winkgrin:

    Till The End Of Time -- Perry Como. A number 1 hit in 1945. RCA Victor. [tune derived from Chopin's Polonaise No. 6]

    No Other Love -- Jo Stafford. Capitol Records. Reached number 10 in 1950. [tune derived from Chopin's Etude No. 3]
  9. veloso2

    veloso2 Forum Resident

    many gainsbourg songs
  10. Cassiel

    Cassiel Sonic Reducer

    NYC, USA
    There are probably a lot of such "borrowings" (particularly chord progressions), but here are some blatant ones not already mentioned:

    "Annie's Song" - John Denver (Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony)
    "Lady Lynda" - Beach Boys (JS Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring")
    "Russians" - Sting (Prokofiev, but I don't know the piece)
    "A Whiter Shade of Pale" - Procol Harum (JS Bach's "Airs on a G String")

    As for non-classical public domain borrowings, there are a fair number of PD folk and blues melodies that ended up in songs with "Bob Dylan" or "Jimmy Page" listed as the writer.
  11. oxenholme

    oxenholme Senile member

    Minuet Mash - Les Reed Piano - Pye Piccadilly - 1963 - from Sonate Facile by W.A. Mozart
  12. Synthfreek

    Synthfreek I’m a ray of sunshine & bastion of positivity

    Holst-The Planets has pretty much been beaten to death...King Crimson, Bathory, Diamond Head, Synergy & one of the tracks from either Nuggets I or II use Mars and Jupiter.

    Dr. Octagon tastefully samples Pachelbel-Canon.
  13. realgone

    realgone Forum Resident

    I think the Prokofiev was from the Lietenent Kije suite but I dun believe he actually used the melody in the song proper, just as a bridge between portions of the song, although that did add a whole dimension to the song.
  14. Synthfreek

    Synthfreek I’m a ray of sunshine & bastion of positivity

    April Sky by Vinnie Moore uses elements from both Air On A G String and Piano Concerto No. 5.
  15. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered

  16. ArneW

    ArneW Senior Member

    Cologne, Germany
    "I'm always chasing rainbows" (Chopin)
    "Moon Love" (Tchaikowsky)
    "And this is my beloved" (Borodin)
  17. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered

    The Move - "Night Of Fear" (1812 Overture, Tchaikovsky)
  18. imarcq

    imarcq Men are from Mars, I'm from Bromley...

    Men At Work - 'Down Under' = 'Kookaburra sits in the Old Gum Tree'

    In June 2009, Larrikin Music sued the band Men At Work for copyright infringement, alleging that part of the flute riff of the band's 1981 single "Down Under" was copied from "Kookaburra". The counsel for the band's record label and publishing company (Sony BMG Music Entertainment and EMI Songs Australia) claimed that, based on the agreement under which the song was written, the copyright was actually held by the Girl Guides Association. On 30 July, Justice Peter Jacobson of the Federal Court of Australia made a preliminary ruling that Larrikin did own copyright on the song, but the issue of whether or not songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert had plagiarised the riff would be determined at a later date. On 4 February 2010, Justice Jacobson delivered his judgment that Men At Work had infringed Larrikin's copyright, and that both recordings submitted to the court "...reproduce a substantial part of Kookaburra".

    Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
    Merry merry king of the bush is he.
    Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
    Gay your life must be!
  19. anduandi

    anduandi Forum Resident

    Though not necessarily pop, but Renaissance comes to mind.
    The intro from "Running hard" is an excerpt from "Litanies" originally by Alain Jehain (French composer).
    "Cold is being" is from Albinoni ("Adagio") and there are quite a few other melodies borrowed by classical composers like Chopin or Tchaikowski.

    "Scheherazade" in comparison musically is not borrowed from Rimsky-Korsakow as some reviewers of the album claimed, except perhaps for a few notes at the beginning.
    The story of course and the whole atmosphere is similar to that of the classical pattern.
  20. Andreas

    Andreas Senior Member

    Frankfurt, Germany
    Tom Waits - Tom Traubert's Blues (refrain is lifted from the Australian song Waltzing Mathilda)
    Elvis Presley - Surrender (lifted from Italian song Torna a Surriento)
  21. Tone

    Tone Forum Resident

    As mentoned, "A Lover's Concerto", 1965, has lyrics over Bach's "Minuet in G".

    How gentle is the rain
    That falls softly on the meadow,
    Birds high up in the trees
    Serenade the flowers with their melodies
  22. vonwegen

    vonwegen Forum Resident

    Not exactly a "pop song", but David Bowie's "Weeping Wall" on side 2 of Low intermittently borrows the melody from "We Three Kings" for the lead synth melody.
  23. eddiel

    eddiel Forum Resident

    Toronto, Canada
    I remember seeing an interview with Ray Manzarek where he said the intro to Light My Fire was inspired by Bach. I don't recall if he mentioned a specific piece or if he meant generally.

  24. -Alan

    -Alan Senior Member

    Connecticut, USA
    Same Old Lang Syne - Dan Fogelberg (Auld Lang Syne)

    Never Gonna Fall in Love Again - Eric Carmen (also based on a Rachmaninoff melody: Symphony No. 2 from the Adagio movement.)

    Pictures at an Exhibition - Emerson, Lake & Palmer (An adaptation of Leonard Bernstein's version of Modest Mussorgsky's piano suite "Pictures At An Exhibition.")
  25. vonwegen

    vonwegen Forum Resident

    Another one: "Old Man" (Bryan MacLean) from Love's Forever Changes album borrows from Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije Suite.
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