Bach & Roll: 10 Modern Songs Written By Classical Composers

If you're one of those people who swears that they hate classical music, you may want to sit down because you've probably been listening to classical music this whole time without knowing it.

Sure, everyone uses the same finite number of chord progressions in pop music (many of which can be traced back to Bach), but it also turns out that some of your favorite hit songs, indie pop gems and classic standards aren't modern at all. They were ripped off. Your favorite graduation song is Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major," one of Elvis Presley's greatest hits is actually a sappy 18th century ballad and Robin Thicke's real breakthrough song, "When I Get You Alone," is Beethoven's Fifth.

Robin Thicke's "When I Get You Alone" samples Walter Murphy's "A Fifth of Beethoven," which in turn is a disco remix of Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony"

Sure, "Blurred Lines" is one of the biggest hits of the summer and is the song that put Robin Thicke at the top of the game, but his first foray into pop stardom came from the sultry and soulful "When I Get You Alone." The song features a prominent sample of Walter Murphy's disco classic, "A Fifth of Beethoven," which is in turn a reinvigoration of Beethoven's legendary "Fifth Symphony."

"When I Get You Alone":

"Fifth Symphony":

[Photo Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia]

"Grace Kelly" by Mika is a modern interpretation of Rossini's "Largo Al Factorum" aria from The Barber of Seville

British alt pop star Mika was feeling frustrated when record executives wanted him to sound more like popular artist Craig David, so he fired back with a hit song that combined his love of Old Hollywood, Freddie Mercury and opera. "Grace Kelly" describes Mika's inability to fit into anyone's mold, but he has admitted that the melody was derived from Rossini's famous "Largo Al Factorum" aria from The Barber of Seville. It's definitely not a straight knock-off, but the similarities are there.

"Grace Kelly":

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"Largo Al Factorum":

[Photo Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia]

Jem's "They" is pretty much just Bach's "Prelude in F minor"

Welsh singer-songwriter Jem never hit it big in America, but you've definitely heard her music in commercials, trailers and television shows like Grey's Anatomy. Her debut single, "They," remains her best selling single worldwide and is basically Johann Sebastian Bach's "Prelude in F minor." I mean, technically she sampled Swingle Sister's jazzy interpretation of the work, but see for yourself...


"Prelude in F minor":

[Photo Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia]

Nas's "I Can" samples Beethoven's "Fur Elise"

Hip hop isn't just built upon ill rhymes, but samples of pre-existing melodies blended together with new beats in an inventive way. Nas's 2003 single, "I Can," samples Beethoven's famous "Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor," aka "Fur Elise."

"I Can":

"Fur Elise:

[Photo Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia]

Janet Jackson's "Someone To Call My Lover" is a rehash of Satie's "Gymnopedie, No. 1"

Erik Satie was a revolutionary pianist and composer during the Belle Epoque. Meaning that he partied hard at the Moulin Rouge and created music that sounds old fashioned now, but was revolutionary "noise" slightly over 100 years ago. Janet Jackson is one of the most prolific pop artists of the last two decades. How did she manage to keep things fresh? Well, for her 2001 hit, "Someone To Call My Lover," Miss Jackson and her songwriting team changed the time signature on Satie's "Gymnopedie No. 1" from 3/4 "waltz" time to 4/4 "pop song" time. It makes the melody easier to listen to...and harder to identify as Satie's. Oh, and the guitar riff is a sample of America's "Ventura Highway."

"Someone To Call My Lover":

"Gymnopedie No. 1":

Vitamin C's "Graduation (Friends Forever)" is Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major"

If you've graduated from any higher learning institution since 2000, you've probably heard Vitamin C's "Graduation (Friends Forever)." Also, if you've been to any wedding where there's a string quartet, or at least watched the 1990s version of Father of the Bride, then you've also heard Vitamin C's "Graduation (Friends Forever)." How can that be? Because the main melody is sampled from Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major," which is also the greatest hit of string quartet history.

"Graduation (Friends Forever)":

"Canon in D Major":

[Photo Credit: Getty Images and]

En Vogue's "Love U Crazay" samples Tchaikovsky's "Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy"

In 2000, En Vogue released the ambitious Masterpiece Theater, an album that was devoted to remixing classical music for a modern R&B audience. The album tanked so badly that the record company refused to release the album's second single, "Love U Crazay," which would have been a sultry take on "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," one of the most famous songs from Tchaikovsy's Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker. Take a listen at what could have been...

"Love U Crazay":

"Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy":

Elvis Presley's "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" is a "modern" take on Martini's "Plaisir d'amour" 

"I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" is one of Elvis Presley's most enduring--and most romantic--hits. Now the song seems like a slice of heaven from a bygone era, which is ironic, because when it was recorded it already was. The tune's songwriters pretty much stole the melody from an 18th romance song called, "Plaisir d'amour."

"I Can't Help Falling In Love With You":

"Plaisir d'amour":

[Photo Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia]

Perry Como's "Catch A Falling Star"is from Brahms' Academic Festival Overture

Perry Como's lovely and jaunty "Catch A Falling Star" has a way of popping up in kids movies and children's choir scenes (think Anne Hathaway singing it in The Princess Diaries), which is rather apropos since it's stolen from Brahms' great thank you to the University of Breslau. So there is a scholastic influence, except Brahms' work is intended to be a humorous collection of melodies the composer himself referred to as "student drinking songs." So, it's also not apropos. But please do sing "Catch A Falling Star" with your friends next time you're drunk. It will be like time traveling to 1880 Germany.

"Catch A Falling Star":

Academic Festival Overture(start at 4:24):

[Photo Credit: Disney and Wikipedia]

Eric Carmen's "All By Myself" is a rip off of Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor"

When 70s crooner Eric Carmen recorded "All By Myself," he wasn't just writing one of the best power ballads of all time, he was ripping off the work of Rachmanioff. Unlike most of the artists on this list, Carmen wasn't sampling something that was in the public domain and he wasn't remixing it either. He pretty much bit Rachmanioff's melody for the song's verses. When the Rachmanioff estate found out that Carmen had not just ripped off one Rachmanioff melody, but two ("Never Going To Fall in Love Again" is from Symphony No. 2), they threatened legal action. Now, whenever you hear someone belting "All By Myself" on a reality competition or on a movie soundtrack, keep in mind that Rachmanioff's estate is getting 12% off all profits.

"All By Myself":

"Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor" (start around the 11 minute mark):

[Photo Credit: Arista Records and Wikipedia]