Sam Smith Agrees to Pay Tom Petty Royalties for Similarities to 'I Won't Back Down,' Says He's Never Heard of It


"I Won't Back Down" music video
"I Won't Back Down" music video

I don't know which one is harder to believe—that there's a substantive enough similarity between Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" and Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" that Smith would pay Petty royalties or that Smith's never heard the song "I Won't Back Down."

Nevertheless, Sam Smith will pay Petty and co-songwriter Jeff Lynne royalties on the song "Stay With Me" for similarities to "I Won't Back Down" representatvies for Petty say they heard.  Smith's representative say the similarities are purely coincidental, and that the authors of "Stay With Me," Smith and two other songwriters, were "not previously familiar" with the Petty song, which hit number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 as the first single of Petty's debut solo album Full Moon Fever, which eventually went multiplatinum. "Stay With Me," also off a debut album, reached number two on Billboard last year.

Petty and Lynne will now receive songwriting credit for "Stay With Me," which was nominated for a Grammy for song of the year but, the senior vice president for awards for the Recording Academy told CNN, won't share the award if the song wins. Instead the academy considers the Petty song, which Smith and his co-songwriters said they'd never heard before, "to have been interpolated" by them.

You can listen to Smith's song here and Petty's below:

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  1. Full Moon Fever was Petty’s debut album? Damn those torpedoes, I’m going to breakdown!

  2. I hear three notes in common. Three fucking notes. Fuck Tom Petty.

    1. I hear the exact tune to ‘Won’t back down’ in that song.

      I never heard it is some bullshit, too.

      There was someone in that recording studio who said, “hey, you ever hear this song?”

      However, it’s only the tune… Vanilla Ice likes this song.

    2. Listen to The Jayhawks ‘Waiting for the Sun’ and then Tom Petty’s ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’. Petty is a huge hypocrite.

      1. Some have claimed that the Red Hot Chili Peppers single “Dani California”, released in May 2006, is very similar to Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”. Petty told Rolling Stone, “I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock ‘n’ roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry. The Strokes took ‘American Girl’ for their song ‘Last Nite’, and I saw an interview with them where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, ‘OK, good for you’ … If someone took my song note for note and stole it maliciously, then maybe [I’d sue]. But I don’t believe in lawsuits much. I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs.”

        Don’t tell Tom but I stole that directly from Wikipedia. Also, he lifted the line “rebel without a clue” from The Replacements. Probably. I don’t really know for sure. Who cares.

    3. Those are actually called “chords”.

      In the same sequence, tempo, and exact rhythmic pattern. With the same (basic) vocal melody on top.

      If anything its a ‘transposition’. Which, under how copyright is applied to musical compositions/recordings, is generally legit.

      Meaning, you can completely lift *most* of a chord progression from one tune and apply it to another, and not be subject to any royalty payments. In the case of these 3chord-pop-music-jawns, I think its pretty silly that anyone can claim ownership of ‘Em/D/G’. These guys made a similar point about 4 Chords

      People do this openly all the time. If anything it seems to me that the recording company lawyers probably decided to pick this particular fight simply because the Sam Smith track was raking in Beaucoup Coin, and they thought they could get a bite.

      IOW, i don’t think Tom Petty has much to do with the issue in the end.

      1. Sure, plenty of songs use the same backing chords, but this pair shares the same melody.

  3. Yet another example of why IP laws are broken, especially copyright laws. (Well… especially software patent laws, but that’s OT.)

  4. Sounds like that lawsuit was quite, um, what’s that word for trivial or frivolous?

    1. Frivial? Trivolous?

    2. Running down a dream?

  5. I’ve never heard of either title. Are you sure these are real songs?

    1. Seriously? Don’t do me like that.

      1. Of the three people named in the article, I recognize one, but have no sound associated with it, and the other two might as well have fallen out of a random name generator. Neither song title rings a bell.

        1. You don’t have to live like a refugee.

  6. …Petty Royalties…

    I see what you did there.

  7. For what it’s worth, the Petty song came out before Smith was even born. Yeah, this is good evidence that IP law needs some serious reform.

    1. Reform it with abolition.

      1. I’m not particularly averse to that course. But, I’d be willing to settle with eliminating some of the obvious absurdities.


  9. I love Tom Petty and have no use for Sam Smith, but c’mon. If that’s copyright infringement, then every songwriter in the world (including Petty) better hold on to their nuts. I could cue up Tom Petty on my playlist right now and have a dozen better cases of infringement by tonight.

  10. Smith’s never heard the song “I Won’t Back Down.”

    Funny, when I read that I wondered who is this Sam Smith person, and what is his song?
    I really am out of touch with popular culture.

    Yeah, the opening sentence of the article is right on the money, so to speak.

    Last night my wife had the TV on while I was trying to sleep, which I could not do. So, I watched some, something I almost never do. It didn’t take me long to remember why.

    Every five minutes they advertised this:…..lity-show/

    And this:

    And other dreck of the same caliber. Absolute shit. Trashy, childish people whoring for attention by acting as trashy, bitchy and childish as humanly possible.

    I think I will stay out of touch with popular culture, thank you very much.

  11. Total bullshit. I have always liked Tom Petty, but this is bull. I never heard of this Smith guy, though I thought the song was pretty interesting. Yeah, the chorus is sort of the same as Petty’s song, but there is absolutely no mistaking one song for the other. It is akin to copyrighting a sentence or even a word. I’m sorry, fuck you Tom. Aren’t you fucking rich enough already?

  12. I never got what was cool about The Smiths. They just sounded like whiney pre-emo to me. That we called it “pre-emo” at the time is a testament to how much worse it obviously had to get.

    1. Also, this “Stay with Me” song sounds a lot more like Boston’s “More than a Feeling” played in the wrong key.

    2. Wrong Smith

  13. Am I the only one who ever noticed the similarities with these two songs?

    1. No, I have too. It’s not that close, though.

      Having an ear & memory for tunes & rhythm can be a bit embarrassing. A couple years ago a couple performed a song of their own composition that I pointed out sounded very close to the theme music of World War 1, which aired over 50 years ago and which they might not have been familiar with. Then again, maybe they were.

  14. Anything that makes Jeff Lynne richer just sickens me.

  15. Jesus Christ, that song has 200 million views?

  16. This Mashup Proves Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” Is a Tom Petty Song…..1682037231

  17. When I heard these songs casually on the radio, I assumed one was the 2nd verse of the other.

  18. A lot of fun can be had when the composer and the listener each have an ear for these things. I realized a while ago that the music on Lost was largely an allusion to that of Department S, but it was only recently that I noticed that in the Swan station instructional film, the music with that theme was synchronized to come up with the logo to the way it does in the opening credits sequence of Department S. That shows that composer Michael Giacchino was in on the knowledge that Lost had a plot that was made to reflect that of many episodes of Department S.

  19. Never heard of it? Cool. Reason is now taking litigants’ word for it. Interesting!

    So all those cops say they’re justified. Reason’s now pro-cop?

  20. One obvious difference between the two songs is that the Sam Smith song is terrible, whereas the Tom Petty song is fantastic.

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