Tom Petty has spoken out about the recent news that he gained a songwriting credit and share of the royalties from Sam Smith‘s 2014 hit “Stay With Me.” Petty emphasizes that he wasn’t upset about the song’s similarities to his 1989 song “I Won’t Back Down.” But what he doesn’t explain is why, of all the music with resemblance to his work, he singled out Smith’s.
The likeness between the two songs was “a musical accident,” Petty says in a statement on his website. “Let me say I have never had any hard feelings toward Sam,” he writes. “The word lawsuit was never even said and was never my intention.”
Petty doesn’t address why this particular accident should allow him to be billed as a co-writer of the song, when this is hardly the first time someone has borrowed from Petty and his band the Heartbreakers. As David Marchese noted for New York, the Strokes’ breakout 2001 hit “Last Nite” famously resembled Petty’s “American Girl,” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 2006 single “Dani California” carries more than a whiff of Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” As for the former, Petty told Rolling Stone, “It doesn’t bother me.” As for the latter, in the same RS interview, he said, “A lot of rock’n’roll songs sound alike.”
“Stay With Me (Darkchild Version),” an updated mix of the song by producer-to-the-stars Rodney Jerkins, scored Grammy nominations for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Pop Solo Performance. Smith is nominated for six Grammys overall. A rep for Smith told Billboard the similarity was a “complete coincidence.” Separately, the Recording Academy told Billboard that Petty and “I Won’t Back Down” co-songwriter Jeff Lynne, of Electric Light Orchestra, won’t be eligible to receive Grammys for “Stay With Me.”
Read Petty’s full statement below, and scroll down to free fall into Petty-alikes.
About the Sam Smith thing. Let me say I have never had any hard feelings toward Sam. All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by. Sam’s people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement. The word lawsuit was never even said and was never my intention. And no more was to be said about it. How it got out to the press is beyond Sam or myself. Sam did the right thing and I have thought no more about this. A musical accident no more no less. In these times we live in this is hardly news. I wish Sam all the best for his ongoing career. Peace and love to all.