A lot of the time, you hear about bitter musical rivalry or tales of alleged plagiarism that involve the biggest musical acts in the world (and their lawyers) going up against relatively tiny acts even when, hey, that riff sounds pretty familiar. But Sam Smith recently struck a deal with Tom Petty that is none of the above. It's got all the juicy elements that could lead to a musical clash for the ages — but it didn't. In fact, what happened was downright polite.
Here's how everything went down. Sam Smith's ballad "Stay With Me" hit it big, becoming the go-to shower-cry song of multiple nations and inspiring some pretty great parodies. One day, as I imagine it, legendary musician Tom Petty and collaborator Jeff Lynne were hanging out, when "Stay With Me" starts playing — from destiny or from the radio, you decide, but I'm going with destiny. "Hey, is that...? Does this sound... familiar?" Lynne probably said. To which Petty probably responded, "It DOES sound familiar! My goodness! This is extremely reminiscent of our 1989 single 'I Won't Back Down.'"
Things from there were shockingly calm, at least publicly: Petty and Lynne brought their quibble to the attention of Smith's people, and Smith's rep responded with this statement to Billboard:
Not previously familiar with the 1989 Petty/Lynne song, the writers of ‘Stay With Me’ listened to ‘I Won’t Back Down’ and acknowledged the similarity. Although the likeness was a complete coincidence, all involved came to an immediate and amicable agreement in which Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne are now credited as co-writers of ‘Stay With Me’ along with Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips.
Everyone's being so nice about this. There's not even a whiff of territorial hissing! I'd say that it's a letdown, but it's really not. I am more than tired of stories of trumped-up rivalries. And it's really nice to see a resolution like this. It's so damn amiable that I kind of have visions of an actual on-purpose Smith/Petty collaboration in the future dancing in my head.
For reference, here is Tom Petty & The Heartbreaker's "I Won't Back Down."
And here is Sam Smith's "Stay With Me." There's definitely a similar flow in that chorus.