On this day in 1994 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that parodies, commercial or non-commercial, do not violate copyright law. 2 Live Crew had applied for permission to parody Roy Orbison's "Oh Pretty Woman," but were refused. They made the song anyway, and after a quarter of a million copies were sold, Acuff-Rose Music sued Crew and Luke Skyywalker Records for infringement.
The Supreme Court disagreed (inadvertently enshrining 2 Live Crew in law libraries everywhere when Justice David Souter included the complete texts of the lyrics in his majority opinion), and ever since then mocksters have been completely free to appropriate songs in the name of humor. Today, presented in no particular order, we celebrate songs that are lawyer-proof thanks to Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.
Author's Note: Weird Al has been purposely excluded from this list due to his obvious unfair advantage.
10. Pope Friction, "The Wii Didn't Start the Fire" I'll try not to make this too video-game-heavy, but I've always thought that Pope Friction's game take on "We Didn't Start the Fire" was not only brilliant but the most respectful to the original Billy Joel composition.
9. Somakat, "The Star Wars I Used To Know" Loath as I am to admit Gotye's existence for any reason, I cannot deny that Somakat couldn't have picked a better tune to up the emo factor of both Anakin himself and fanboy butthurt over the prequels. Plus, there's a strange beauty to saying he was "treated like a bantha and it feels so rough." Good on Teddy Films for the idea and Israel Curtis's splendid vocals.
8. Jason Kinney, "Neutra Face" Sometimes the most amazing thing about parodies is seeing the kind of things that people can come up with to sing about. For instance, Jason Kinney, a magnificently bearded bastard, uses Lady Gaga to elucidate, reiterate and syncopate on fonts. It's half Bloodhound Gang, half weird guy who smells like soup mix talking to you in the elevator.
7. Rob Balder, "Always a Goth Chick to Me" I don't know what it is about Billy Joel that makes him so open to parody, but man, there are a lot. Rob Balder takes "Always a Woman to Me" to the dark side by making digs at my fellow goths of the female persuasion. Sorry for the crappy audio, but it's too good to omit.
6. Luke Ski, "Stealing Like a Hobbit" Ah, the Great Luke Ski, one of our national nerd-rapping treasures. Eminem's heartfelt "Cleaning out my Closet" turns into a kind of weird, unrequited love song between Frodo and Gollum. Maybe that's just how I interpret it, but it really sounds like Frodo and Smeagol were getting down in these lyrics.
5. Spaff and Robert Lund, "99 Words for Boobs" Got to level with you guys, I might just be putting this one in here because it ups our pageviews whenever we include the word "boobs hot girls rolex jennifer aniston barack hussein obama." Or it might be because this song and boobs are awesome. I would kill to hear a German version.
4. Tom Lehrer, "The Elements" In his entire career as a comedic songwriter, Tom Lehrer wrote only two parodies, and since one of them was just exploring "Clementine" as sung under different styles, it hardly counts. This listing of the periodic table of elements is accurate up to 102 (nobelium) and is based off "Major-General's Song" from Pirates of Penzance.
3. Hillywood Reporter, Sammy and For Orchestra, "Deathly Hallows" I know that parodying Rebecca Black's "Friday" is what every hack did, but occasionally some people did it so well that you realized that underneath the worst lyrics in the world were actually some catchy melodies. This Harry Potter rendition was on a constant loop in my house when Deathly Hallows 2 came out, and I still love it.
2. College Humor, "Mitt Romney Style" Speaking of unexplainable pop-culture phenomena, College Humor's ode to the failed Republican nominee for president and his money was easily the best way to experience Psy's "Gangnam Style." Embedding is disabled, unfortunately, but you can see it here.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
1. Speaker, "Tick Tock Goes the Clock" Yeah, anyone who reads my work knows that there wasn't a chance in hell I wasn't going to give something about Doctor Who the top slot. Seriously, I cannot stop listening to this tune. If nothing else because of the line "The Cybermen are spilling 'cause they hear we've got Rory," and that's just badass. It's also better than Ke$ha's original, but that's not exactly hard.