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Sam Smith To Pay Out Royalties To Tom Petty For His Song ‘Stay With Me’


Sam Smith

Usually I have a good ear for this kind of things, but this had totally flown way over my head: Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’ is very similar to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ ‘I Won’t Back Down’… I know what you are gonna say, what? It didn’t hit me first either, but go beyond the ambiance and the rhythms of both songs, and you’ll finally get it. I understand why it was not obvious at first, Sam Smith’s song is slowed down, all gospel-ish and church-y, while Tom Petty’s song is rocking fast. Anyway it is a sort of revelation when you hear it. And some people had noticed! This blog has even the comparison between both songs’ musical tabs, and this is eerie as they concluded: ‘Of the four phrases, three are virtually identical. The pitches are the same; the rhythms are the same; the chords are pretty much the same, with Petty’s D subbed out for Smith’s C (a change that doesn’t really affect the harmony). Even the structure of the lyrics is similar — the songs’ titles both arrive on the same notes in the first full bar and are repeated in the last phrase.’

After so much evidence, it wasn’t a surprise that there was no contestation, Smith has agreed to pay out royalties to Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne who wrote the song in 1989. So I guess it is a very good deal for Petty and Lynne because how many records did Smith sell? Six million copies according to Wikipedia! The song peaked at number one in the UK singles chart, has topped the charts in Canada and was number two on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was nominated for the Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance in December 2014! It was even one of the best-selling singles worldwide.

So what does this say? That this incredible success is due to a very famous hit stuck in our collective memory? And that Smith is a thief? Can he honestly pretend he didn’t intentionally copy the song when there are so many similarities? Is it even possible? This page has the two songs side by side, and here are them below, I let you the judge.

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