We sat in his living room on the Upper East Side, facing each other in easy chairs, as he worked his way through a mountain of CDs. He played “Angel,” by the reggae singer Shaggy, and then “The Joker,” by the Steve Miller Band, and told me to listen very carefully to the similarity in bass lines. He played Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and then Muddy Waters's “You Need Love,” to show the extent to which Led Zeppelin had mined the blues for inspiration. He played “Twice My Age,” by Shabba Ranks and Krystal, and then the saccharine seventies pop standard “Seasons in the Sun,” until I could hear the echoes of the second song in the first. He played “Last Christmas,” by Wham!, followed by Barry Manilow's “Can't Smile Without You” to explain why Manilow might have been startled when he first heard that song, and then “Joanna,” by Kool and the Gang, because, in a different way, “Last Christmas” was an homage to Kool and the Gang as well. “That sound you hear in Nirvana,” my friend said at one point, “that soft and then loud, kind of exploding thing, a lot of that was inspired by the Pixies. Yet Kurt Cobain”—Nirvana’s lead singer and songwriter—“was such a genius that he managed to make it his own. And ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’?”—here he was referring to perhaps the best-known Nirvana song. “That's Boston's ‘More Than a Feeling.’ ” He began to hum the riff of the Boston hit, and said, “The first time I heard ‘Teen Spirit,’ I said, ‘That guitar lick is from “More Than a Feeling.” ’ But it was different—it was urgent and brilliant and new."- From Malcolm Gladwell's Something Borrowed, originally a New Yorker article, also can be found in his book What the Dog Saw.
Thanks to Spotify, you don't have to wade through a mountain of plastics to hear all the songs. Jimmy Page doesn't get streaming yet, and I put in Beth Hart's furious live performance for "Whole Lotta Love". I also included some other songs that borrowed from other songs: Billy Bragg's "A New England" took the first two lines from Paul Simon's "Leaves That Are Green"; PJ Harvey's "The Words That Maketh Murder" lifted the refrain "What if I take my problem to the United Nation?" from Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues"; Neil Young's "Borrowed Tune" and the original Stones classic "Lady Jane". The most notorious case might be Coldplay's "Viva la Vida", which stole the soaring melody from Joe Satriani's tune "If I Could Fly". The influence of Hendrix's "1983...(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)" on Radiohead's "Lucky" is so obvious that I'm surprised that it's not mentioned very often.
Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Inspried by Malcolm Gladwell - Something Borrowed (36 tracks, total time: 2 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Every original track is placed right after the newer song that borrowed from it. Suggestions are much welcome; you may leave a comment or send to my Spotify Inbox. For Pop Songs based on classical works, see my previous playlist (one of my personal favorites).