The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ Was Stolen from a Chuck Berry Song?
I thought I knew everything about the Beatles, but for some reason I had never heard the story about how John Lennon plagiarized "Come Together" from a Chuck Berry song.
Music lawsuits are very common nowadays. Recently Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke were found guilty of stealing their hit "Blurred Lines" from Marvin Gaye. But did you know that John Lennon was also accused of plagiarism?
In 1956 Chuck Berry recorded the song "You Can't Catch Me" for the movie Rock, Rock, Rock. Lennon says he used the song as an inspiration while writing "Come Together" in 1969 for the Abby Road album. Lennon was eventually sued by Morris Levy, a music producer who owned the rights to "You Can't Catch Me". According to The Beatles Bible, Levy argued that Come Together, which contained the line "here come old flat top" plagiarised Berry's song.
The lawsuit maintained that Lennon simply slowed down Berry's song, otherwise it was the same tune. One of the main pieces of evidence used against Lennon was the fact that he even kept some of Berry's original lyrics. In "Come Together", Lennon sings "here come ol' flattop, he come groovin' up slowly" and in the Berry song, the lyrics go "here come a flattop, he was movin' up with me."
You can hear the similarities for yourself. Here is the Chuck Berry song:
And here is the Beatle's "Come Together":
Lennon eventually settled out of court. Part of the agreement forced Lennon to record and release three songs that were owned by Levy. Two of the songs wound up on Lennon's 1975 album Rock 'n' Roll, including a cover of "You Can't Catch Me". The third song was never released and led to another lawsuit by Levy. Lennon was eventually found in breach of contract and Levy was awarded $6,795.
Lennon took Levy back to court a few years later after Levy released an album called Roots that consisted of old Lennon bootlegs. The Beatle won $84,912.96 in that judgement.
So what do you think? Did Lennon steal Chuck Berry's song or was it just used as an inspiration for "Come Together"?