Smith's tune has been judged too similar to Petty's hit "I Won't Back Down"

By Alex Heigl
Updated January 26, 2015 01:45 PM
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Marcus Owen/Startraks Photo; C Flanigan/FilmMagic

Tom Petty‘s a popular guy with the younger crowd of musicians.

A few years ago, there was a lot of hubbub over the similarities between the Red Hot Chili Peppers song “Dani California” and Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane,” and this week, Petty’s in the news again, this time because Sam Smith inadvertently aped Petty’s 1989 single “I Won’t Back Down” with last year’s hit “Stay With Me.”

But things have come to an polite end: Petty and ELO’s Jeff Lynne, who co-wrote “I Won’t Back Down,” are now listed as co-writers of “Stay With Me” and will receive royalties going forward.

“Recently the publishers for the song ‘I Won’t Back Down,’ written by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, contacted the publishers for ‘Stay With Me,’ written by Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips, about similarities heard in the melodies of the choruses of the two compositions,” Smith’s rep told Rolling Stone. “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.”

In 2006, regarding the Red Hot Chili Peppers situation, Petty told Rolling Stone, “I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock & roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry,” before admitting that he laughed when The Strokes openly admitted to nicking the riff from Petty’s hit “American Girl” for their own song “Last Nite.”

“I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs,” Petty concluded.

For what it’s worth, here’s a cover by Sean Magee that reveals the similarities between “Stay With Me” and “Won’t Back Down.”