“Stay with Me” was such a great summer single. Sam Smith wrote it with two pals, and the song had a gospel feel. Smith’s soulful rendition was solo, and he also offered a cool duet with Mary J. Blige. The song felt like a throwback.
Indeed, it was. Smith has just settled, according to reports, with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne over a copyright protest. “Stay with Me” sounded so great because we already knew it: it’s very similar to Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Whoops!
Reports say that Smith et al conceded that it was a coincidence– a lot like George Harrison grafting “My Sweet Lord”
from “He’s so Fine.” It was in his head. Michael McDonald (of Doobie Brothers fame) did the same thing once. He wrote and recorded a whole song called “I Keep Forgettin’.” After it was done, someone had the presence of mind to tell him it was Chuck Jackson’s old hit of the same name. He’d just forgotten.
Smith agrees that it’s a “coincidence.”
So now, “Stay with Me” is credited on ASCAP’s website to Smith and co., as well as to Petty and Lynne. No word on retroactive financial arrangements, but going forward, Petty and Lynne will probably get the lion’s share of the dough.
As for the song’s Grammy chances, I’d say they are over. And it’s too bad, because everyone likes the record so much. But Petty and Lynne wouldn’t back down, and Grammy voters probably won’t either.
Some people pursue these things. Sting–who’s been ripped off at least three times in the last couple of years– has declined. And of course, a lot of contemporary songs that we all love– like Alicia Keys’s “Empire State of Mind”– are sampled from other material (in that case, “Love on a Two Way Street”).
I do remember when Mariah Carey took the Emotions song “Best of My Love” and made it into a note for note version of s a new song called “Emotions.” Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire, who wrote “Best of My Love,” told me: “I’ve heard of sampling, but this was the whole buffet!”
A more recent example would be Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” lurking inside John Mayer’s “Waiting for the World to Change.” I don’t think the Mayfield estate has ever been paid.