My family and I do a lot of traveling, so we have a SiriusXM subscription to avoid having to constantly look for radio stations between locations. One of my favorite channels is the 80’s station, which plays a mix of pop hits from that specific era.
While listening during a recent trip, I heard Kenny Loggins’ “I’m Alright,” which was featured on the soundtrack for the movie, Caddyshack (thus the featured image of a groundhog). It’s a catchy, bouncy little number that isn’t all that deep lyrically, but is high-energy and fun to listen to (listen below):
It also sounded very familiar. I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it at that moment.
Fast forward a bit, and I had my own playlist going while driving around town. The Gaither Vocal Band came on, and it hit me – “I’m Alright” sounds a lot like “Love Like I’m Leaving.” Or rather, “Love Like I’m Leaving” sounds suspiciously like “I’m Alright.”
Now, I should probably add a little clarification here, because the GVB has actually recorded the song twice – once in 2010 and again in 2019 with a fresh arrangement. Both versions seem to be influenced by the Loggins song – they all have the same basic toms groove, they all start with an acoustic-based chorus with no intro, and they seem to have a similar structure – but it’s the 2019 version in particular that seems to be the bigger culprit.
Let’s start with the 2010 cut. There are a lot of vocal adlibs behind the main melody, which were less prominent in the 2019 version, but it does make it sound similar to Loggins’ own backing ad-libs. This arrangement overall, though, isn’t quite as obvious in its similarities with “I’m Alright,” which is helped by the fact that the vocal arrangement is a bit more elaborate, especially with the harmonies.
The 2019 version, however, seems to be much more forthright in how similar it sounds to the Loggins tune. The harmonies are straight-forward with fewer background ad-libs (making it more apparent that the two songs sound alike), but the true culprit can be heard at the 2:02 mark in the clip below:
Compare that to the almost identical time in the Loggins cut (2:03), and you’ll hear the exact same “stutter” in the arrangement, where it sounds like the chorus starts, followed by a bass step-out. This was actually the part of the song that sealed the deal for me in terms of being “influenced.”
Now, to be fair, there are plenty of other gospel songs that have “borrowed” from secular sources. This is nothing new by any means, and I’m sure the overlap in audience between 1980’s pop and most southern gospel is probably not all that large anyway, so if you can get away with it, why not? Gospel audiences get to hear something they haven’t heard before, and artists/producers/arrangers get to do something outside the box. There are times, however, where it becomes a bit too obvious, especially when such an overlap (however small) does still exist.
So, what say you? The evidence is in…is this just a case of the GVB being inspired by an 80’s pop song, or is it a straight-up rip-off?
There have been many songs that started out secular or had the tune of a secular song.
The song “There Goes My Everything” was redone to “He Is My Everything” by Dallas Frazier with his permission.
The song “I Know” by Laverne Tripp was a take off of “Sweeter than the Flowers” and Laverne Tripp had to give credit to the original song writers.
But it seems that Bill Gaither has short memory, because the Cathedrals recorded “Go Jonah” to the tune of “Elvira”. Dallas Frazier sued The Cathedrals and they were told not to perform “Go Jonah” nor replace existing stock of the song.
The “Go Jonah” situation is sticky, and quite possibly would not have happened after the early 90’s, when the US Supreme Court ruled that parodies are legal, and in the instance of “Go Jonah,” the argument could be made that it is parody, although it was more along the lines of a re-write. It should also be stated that LaVerne Tripp was likewise facing legal action for “I Know,” and subsequent credits on the song include the original composers of “Sweeter than Flowers.”
Another song that comes to mind is “Stand Up,” which was a Sonny Throckmorton composition sung by Mel McDaniel with decidedly different content than what the Kingsmen turned it into…
I can definitely hear some influence on the Gaither tune from the Kenny Loggins cut, but to me they are different enough to avoid any trouble. I don’t know that I personally would have ever made the connection.
For a recent example of straight up rip-off, hear The Nelons’ “Jordan” https://youtu.be/6amSO8Khtaw
followed by “Done” from The Band Perry
Yikes! Not just similar, but almost musically identical…
Wow…yeah, that’s a little too close for comfort…
My first thought was…nahhh
I based that on my familiarity with the 2010 version. I then listened to the parts of the song you suggested…it was nice of Bill to pay tribute to Kenny Loggins and his contributions as 80s musical legend.
In recent mind and time The Tribute Quartet’s song “The Healer Hasn’t Lost His Touch” sounds like “If You Don’t Know Me By Know” Simply Red
I came to mention “Stand Up” too.
There has to be someone who can explain the obvious connection of the songs by the Kingsmen and Mel McDaniel. Someone around at the time, author, or historian?
I wanna say it was Garry Sheppard was the one who re-wrote the lyrics to “Stand Up.” It was 100% a re-write, and I’m guessing since it was released and continues to be staged today, that it was cleared by Throckmorton’s publisher…
If that’s the case they really worked fast. The two songs were released pretty close together. A
Love knowing the song got redeemed.
Checking my LP of Stand Up from 1986 it credits Sonny Throckmorton and Ricky Rector as the songwriters although they had nothing to do with the re-write except give their blessing on it.
If they wrote the original, it’s appropriate that they received credit on the derivation. The new song wouldn’t exist if the first song hadn’t been written.
I remember Hamill saying from stage they had permission but Gary got no royalties.
Unless it’s blatantly obvious and intentional, as in “Stand Up”, writers and studio musicians try very hard to make a song stand on its own. Writers are generally fearful of their songs sounding like another song. A writer will sometimes say “This song needs to have a sort of XYZ song vibe” but try his or her best to NOT make it a carbon copy of Song XYZ. I think this is a case of that. I doubt that GVB or the writer intended to recreate “I’m Alright.”