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Rock and roll was built on plagiarism, Nick Cave says in new blog post

In the latest addition to his blog The Red Hand FilesNick Cave has addressed one fan’s concerns about similarities between his 2010 Grinderman track Palaces of Montezuma and Rising Signs‘ Grey Man. Framed under the challenges of finding originality in modern music, Cave eloquently responds with his take on the appropriation and elaboration which gives rock and roll its “edge and vitality.”

“Plagiarism is an ugly word for what, in rock and roll, is a natural and necessary — even admirable — tendency, and that is to steal,” Cave writes. Theft is the engine of progress, and should be encouraged, even celebrated, provided the stolen idea has been advanced in some way.”

Nick Cave
Photo: Gosha Rubchinskiy

Ever thought that two of your favourite songs sound suspiciously alike? Nick Cave writes that progress in music inevitably comes from borrowed ideas, plagiarism, and appropriation.

Recalling that band-mate Warren Ellis wrote Palaces’ backing vocal line and chord progression, and admitting the similarities himself, Cave reached out to Ellis put the rumours to bed once and for all. “Did you steal Palaces of Montezumafrom Rising Signs?, Cave reportedly asked. “Fuck, no!” Ellis replied, I stole it from The Laughing Clowns.

“To advance an idea is to steal something from someone and make it so cool and covetable that someone then steals it from you,” the singer explained. “In this way, modern music progresses, collecting ideas, and mutating and transforming as it goes.”

“The great beauty of contemporary music, and what gives it its edge and vitality, is its devil-may-care attitude toward appropriation — everybody is grabbing stuff from everybody else, all the time. Its a feeding frenzy of borrowed ideas that goes toward the advancement of rock music — the great artistic experiment of our era.”