Aaron DeOliveira points us to this wonderful bit of historical trivia, involving John Lennon's 1971 response to an article in the NY Times that accused the Beatles of "ripping off" certain black musicians who the band covered. However, John Lennon saw it quite differently
In case you can't read Lennon's handwriting, here's the text, with the key line highlighted:
In Flight... yes
14th Sep. 71.
Dear Craig McGregor
'Money', 'Twist 'n' Shout', 'You really got a hold on me' etc, were all numbers we (the Beatles) used to sing in the dancehalls around Britain, mainly Liverpool. It was only natural that we tried to do it as near to the record as we could - i always wished we could have done them even closer to the original. We didn't sing our own songs in the early days - they weren't good enough - the one thing we always did was to make it known that these were black originals, we loved the music and wanted to spread it in any way we could. in the '50s there were few people listening to blues - R + B - rock and roll, in America as well as Britain. People like - Eric Burdons Animals - Micks Stones - and us drank ate and slept the music, and also recorded it, many kids were turned on to black music by us.
It wasn't a rip off.
it was a love in,
P.S. what about the 'B' side of Money?
P.P.S. even the black kids didn't dig blues etc it wasn't 'sharp' or something.
When we talk about things like mashups, remixes, covers, tributes, homage and other such works that so directly build off of the past, we're quite frequently told that this is not art and that people should "make their own." It's a common refrain we hear here all too often. And yet, they never seem to recognize that replaying what you've heard before is an important part of culture. It's a way of sharing, spreading and building culture by connecting it with a larger group of people. It wasn't a rip off, it was a love in.