Thursday, April 19, 2012

Greed and Unfairness in the Old Gum Tree

I'm sad to hear about the death of Greg Ham, the Men at Work guy.

I'm even more sad to think that his last years were perhaps unhappy.

His famous song "Down Under" was brought to court for copyright infringement. The people who wrote the children's song about the Kookaburra believe the flute bit in "Down Under" was stolen from their song.

The children's song people won the case.

Greg Ham worried that he and the song would be remembered for copyright infringement. He worried all of the crap might have ruined his song.

I was very familiar with the Kookaburra song from my childhood and somewhat familiar with the Men at Work song. I never listened to the latter and thought, Wow, that sounds like the Kookaburra song!

If there ARE major similarities my untrained ear is missing, well....

There are only so many notes in the world, and it's bound to happen that sometimes one song is going to sound a little bit like another song.

If the Kookaburra people really saw such a huge similarity, why couldn't they just see it as a homage to their work?

All I know is that the Down Under song isn't ruined for me. I still like it.

I can't say the same for the Kookaburra song. For me, it's no longer a fun song about a famous Aussie bird. It's now just a sad greed thing that makes little sense to me.


Andrew said...

Don't worry, I can't catch the similarity either and I grew up singing Kookaburra. It was a good song to sing in rounds. Sad about Greg.

FruitCake said...

Oh my stars.. 1982? Where did my life go?

It's an iconic tune with a character all of its own.

Just checked wiki to make sure I'm not talking through my hat, and sho'nuff, copyright belonged to the girl guides association. It was first performed at a Jamboree in Frankston. Ahem.

I don't have a terribly acute ear for music but there were times I heard a hint of kookaburra in the song, and thought that was part of its charm. Makes you wonder how many notes in sequence someone can copyright.. two?

Petty business with a tragic end.

Dina said...

Andrew: I listened to the song again today and still can't hear a strong similarity.

Fruitcake: Time flies so fast. I can't believe 1982 was thirty years ago.

Interesting about Frankston. Did you already know that? Or did you just find out? Or were you saying you knew it and went to confirm?

Good (and funny) point about copyrighting notes. I wonder if there is a precise amount one's allowed to copy...or coincidentally have the same.

HappyOrganist said...

I don't think his song will be remembered for the copyright stuff. It was and is a classic on its own and I'm pretty sure that's the way a lot of people (if not most) will think of it. I've listened to that song several times in the last few months and I never ever think of the copyright thing. I do think of you, though, Dina. hahah =)

Dina said...


I love that you think of me in association with that song.

Thank you!