Did TLC Rip-off Paul McCartney?

Amidst all the excitement that the latest addition to the Beckham clan has the middle name Seven (Harper Seven Beckham), another equally historic piece of entertainment news has semi-slipped through the cracks. Rumour has it Paul McCartney will play a part in the 2012 London Olympics, be it the opening or closing ceremony, and will most likely be reunited with his old Beatle pal Ringo Starr. What’s more, selected offspring of George Harrison and John Lennon are said to also be in talks for the games in what could amount to pretty half-decent Beatle reunion.

Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Paul McCartney’s solo stuff and rediscovered a song I’d long forgotten about. The track in question is one song McCartney wishes had been a bigger hit, feeling it was one of the best songs he ever wrote that didn’t really catch on. Ironically, a variant of the song which is by whisker different enough to avoid copyright infringement, did catch on, becoming one of the biggest hits of the 90s.

The song is Waterfalls, a sparse ballad from 1980 about a man listing all the reasons he needs love, urging his girl not to go “jumping waterfalls,” but to “keep to the lake.” It’s a unique metaphor, so unique that McCartney himself was unconvinced TLC and their writers had created their 1995 hit of the same name without a little of his inspiration.

Regardless, both are great songs, one a mammoth hit, the second biggest of 1995 in-fact, and the other, a more modest one from 15 years prior. Chances are you know TLC’s Waterfalls well, but may not have heard the McCartney original. So here it is, Waterfalls by Sir Paul McCartney, this week’s Song of the Week:

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Either way, TLC's apparently was better, it made more money, it had more success, and even if they did "have aspects of his song" apparently they put them to better use then he did. TLC FOREVER

    1. Unknown says:

      "Better" is pretty damn subjective…

    2. Toby says:

      This is the dumbest comment I’ve ever seen. Tlc were disposable pap, Sir Paul is timeless

  2. Anonymous says:

    I need to put on my high boots as the sh*t from the TLC poster got real deep!

  3. TLC did something to that song that Paul McCartney couldn't do. Ripping off is a big understatement as I feel that they covered the song as they're own and made something out of it which is awareness of safe sex and gang crime which was a problem in America! but thank you Paul for writing it (Lol)

    1. Tim Bradley says:

      Yah, no doubt about it. Paul has so many number 1 songs that a piece of 1 of his songs was made into another song many years after. Also, Paul sings don’t go jumping waterfalls, which people actually do. So TLCs writers change it to
      do go chasing waterfalls etc etc. Change the beat for that time and give it to a group that has 1 hit song.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Who "chases" a waterfall? It's like they decided to rip McCartney off, and then said "we can't use "jumping", that's too close – what other bit of his song can we use? Wait – what's that other verse of his – "chasing" polar bears? Perfect! And keep the lake, that's good too." Pity poor George Harrison getting raked over the legal coals for 'My Sweet Lord', and yet this blatant ripoff slips through to the keeper. McCartney should have put them out of business.

  5. escapeartista says:

    The Beatles used other music for direct inspiration too, even taking a Chuck Berry song, You Can’t Catch Me, and just slowing it down and still using some of the exact same lyrics for Come Together.

    Both versions of Waterfall are good songs, just because the second was inspired by the first doesn’t make it better or worse. Or even measuring by financial/commercial success isn’t a great way rank them against each other. Although I guess that depends on what you value about music.

  6. Be says:

    At least I’m not the only one that notices. Over and over again. Total rip off of Paul.

  7. Enjay says:

    Complete rip-off, no question. The fact the TLC’s “version” was a big hit and McCartney’s wasn’t, just goes to show by 1980 and definitely beyond, the “masses” have no taste in a good tune and in determining what becomes a hit single anymore. I’m sure McCartney didn’t haul them up about it because it would have appeared to be “uncool” and “racist”, -i.e. he didn’t want the agro/ already had enough $’s.

  8. Ric says:

    Definitely a modified cover. THINK, would there be a TLC WAterfalls if there were no McCartney Waterfalls? Uh, NO. I agree with the poster, McCartney just chose not to pursue any legal action, probably because the Beatles borrowed stuff as well. TLC’s version success doesn’t make it better. Different time, generation, and world really.

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