“Me and Bobby McGee” (Roger Miller, 1969)

“To Daddy” (Dolly Parton, 1976)

(suggested by Tina)

Maybe that should really say “Dolly Parton vs. Kris Kristofferson,” since he wrote the song. But as I just learned, Roger “King of the Road” Miller was actually the first to record “Bobby McGee.” I had always figured Kristofferson himself recorded it before Janis (he did, barely) but it turns out that Miller beat them both.

As for “To Daddy,” I think Emmylou Harris released it first, but I like Dolly’s own version a little better, so I went with that. She actually recorded “Bobby McGee” in 2005, with Kristofferson singing backup. He doesn’t sound too mad.


“Paper Tiger” (Beck, 2001)

“Melody” (Serge Gainsbourg, 1971)

(suggested by Josh)

Josh writes: “More than half of the short running time of Serge’s ‘l’histoire de Melody Nelson’ is dedicated to this one groove, and I almost wish more of it was. This one is so close, it’s surprising Beck gave no credit for interpolation, but alas, he didn’t.” He’s right — these songs are so close throughout that it was hard to decide which pieces to excerpt.

“There She Goes” (The La’s, 1990)

“America” (Bree Sharp, 1999)

This is one of the few discoveries that really made me angry — because it’s such a shameless ripoff, because the original is such a great song, and I suppose partly because Lee Mavers (of the La’s) is the kind of Brian Wilson-esque troubled genius of whom music fans naturally feel a little protective. At the time Bree Sharp wrote her song, he had been holed up at home in Liverpool for almost a decade, unable to record, emerging only for the occasional borderline-schizophrenic interview. How did she conclude that this poor guy’s one hit was somehow fair game?

Ironically, of the many covers of “There She Goes,” the most successful one, by Sixpence None the Richer, appeared right before this Bree Sharp album came out in 1999. Sharp is better known for the clever novelty song “David Duchovny,” which appeared on the same album.

“When Love Takes Over” (David Guetta ft. Kelly Rowland, 2009)

“Clocks” (Coldplay, 2002)

(suggested by Max)

Not much to add about this one. I’ve got some other entries in the pipeline where Coldplay was the offender, but this time they seem to have been first.

“Carpetbaggers” (Jenny Lewis, 2008)

“Love is a Rose” (Neil Young, 1974)

When I first heard “Carpetbaggers” it sounded like exactly like “Love is a Rose” to me, and I clearly wasn’t the only one — see here for at least one person who beat me to it. (“Rose” was a hit for Linda Ronstadt, by the way, not for Young himself.) But then I saw some online comments comparing it to Tom Petty’s “Apartment Song,” which is also pretty close:

“The Apartment Song” (Tom Petty, 1989)

Even Neil himself seems to have copied the melody from his own song “Dance, Dance, Dance,” and they both sound a bit like the Grateful Dead’s “Sugar Magnolia” from a year earlier. That’s at least five re-workings of the same melody, and I’m sure there have been more, but “Carpetbaggers” is the first one that doesn’t work for me. The others all have simple, bittersweet lyrics that match the wistful tune, but “Carpetbaggers” is just trying too hard to be clever.

“Dance, Dance, Dance” (Neil Young, 1971)

“Sugar Magnolia” (Grateful Dead, 1970)

“New Path” (Gabriel & Dresden, 2006)

“All Wound Up” (She Wants Revenge, 2009)

(suggested by Max)

As Max said in his email, “both are actually good” — I agree, but what’s interesting to me is how “All Wound Up” evokes both “New Path” and every Prince song at the same time. I’m convinced there’s also a particular Prince song that it’s reminding me of, but I’m not sure which one. Any suggestions?

“My Hometown” (Bruce Springsteen, 1984)

“Standing Still” (Jewel, 2001)

“My Hometown” was the closing track on Springsteen’s biggest album, Born in the USA. “Standing Still” was the closing track on Jewel’s career. No, that’s a little harsh, but I think it was her last mainstream singer-songwriter type single. Since then she’s made dance, country, and children’s albums, believe it or not…