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Elvis Costello dismisses claims Olivia Rodrigo plagiarized his music, saying that’s rock and roll

By Lianne Kolirin, CNN

It’s not been the best week so far for Olivia Rodrigo.

First the teenage star came in for criticism from Courtney Love, the Grand Dame of grunge, who called her “rude” for imitating Hole’s album cover. Now social media users have accused her of plagiarizing a song by the veteran British artist Elvis Costello.

Fortunately, however, Costello has proven to be far more forgiving — and even encouraging — about the similarity between his music and the latest offering from Rodrigo.

After reading an article about Love’s angry accusation this week, a British teenager called Billy Edwards took to Twitter to remark: “First song on the album is a pretty much direct lift from Elvis Costello.”

Edwards was comparing a guitar riff from Brutal, the first track on Rodrigo’s album Sour, with Costello’s 1978 hit Pump It Up.

Much to Edwards’ surprise, Costello himself replied, writing: “This is fine by me, Billy. It’s how rock and roll works. You take the broken pieces of another thrill and make a brand new toy. That’s what I did. #subterreaneanhomesickblues #toomuchmonkeybusiness”

The British singer-songwriter, who shot to fame in the 1970s, appeared to suggest that his song borrowed from Bob Dylan’s 1965 track Subterranean Homesick Blues, which in itself was inspired by Chuck Berry’s Too Much Monkey Business from 1956.

Earlier in the week Love took to Instagram to comment on Rodrigo’s promo photo for her “Sour Prom” concert film.

The photo shows Rodrigo as a prom queen with mascara running down her face and is reminiscent of Love’s band Hole’s 1994 “Live Through This” album cover.

“Spot the Difference! #twinning,” Love wrote in the caption on Instagram.

Rodrigo, who is best known for her roles in Disney’s Bizaardvark and High School Musical series, responded in the comment section, writing “love u and live through this sooooo much.”

Over on her Facebook account, Love was a bit more blunt in her comments, writing: “It was rude of her, and [Rodrigo’s record label] geffen not to ask myself or [‘Live Through This’ cover photographer] Ellen von unwerth.”

Plagiarism rows are not uncommon in the music business. Last year British rock band Led Zeppelin won a long-running legal battle over claims it stole the opening guitar riff of its signature 1971 song “Stairway to Heaven” from a track by the US band Spirit.

In 2015, a jury ordered Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to pay $7.4 million over their hit Blurred Lines, which was found to have resembled Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.”

In 2019 Katy Perry was ordered to pay damages in a copyright infringement case regarding her song “Dark Horse,” which was found to closely resemble a Christian rap song.

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