When it comes to songwriting, any composer can find themselves borrowing from their favorite influences. No matter how much some people might claim to be born with musical genius, it's impossible not to crib from some of your favorite artists that came before you.
Then again, whether you hide it well or not is a different story.
Along with some of the more celebrated songs in rock history, there's a lot of artists who did these renditions a lot better the first time around. For a ripoff though, these artists at least did a serviceable job at trying to hide their influences, even going so far as to put the riff or song idea in a completely different context from the original.
In fact, some of these songs have hidden a lot of their influences in plain sight, only to fly right over your average listeners' head until someone points it out to them.
Sometimes the song isn't even a ripoff of a specific tune, but instead done so closely in one style that you can't really dispute its lineage. Though some fall in the realm of homage, there's a few songs that tip a little too close to the line of plagiarism. Inspired or not, we at least got two kickass songs from the same idea.
10. American Girl - Tom Petty
Tom Petty's American Girl has been picked apart by rock musicians for years now. Though this ode to the heartland has it's place in rock history, a lot of people like to mention how many people rip it off, all the way down to the Strokes admitting to their influence on the intro to their song Last Nite. Then again, how many people tend to bring up Petty himself as the plagiarizer?
As far as the actual song construction goes, there isn't too much to complain about, considering this would become the foundation for Petty's career going forward with the Heartbreakers. No, the crime here comes from the way that the song is played rather than the notes. While Petty had always admitted his influence of acts like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, this is a pure pastiche of the Byrds, with a guitar line that feels like it's directly lifted from the era of Mr. Tambourine Man.
It's not like the Byrds weren't aware of the similarities either, with Roger McGuinn famously asking "when did I record that?" when his manager first played the song for him. This isn't a malicious plagiarism by any means though, instead being a friendly tribute to one of the most tuneful acts of the '60s. For as much as some bands wear their influences on their sleeve, American Girl has its influences written across its face.