Did The Rolling Stones Steal ‘Paint It, Black’ From A Turkish Song?

Since its release in 1966, there have been many comments from Turkish people that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were inspired by Erkin Koray’s song ‘Bir Eylül Akşamı’ to create one of their most successful and famous songs ‘Paint It, Black.’ 

The most common reason why the songs seem similar is because of the middle-eastern instrumental melody. This melody was used in the beginning and the chorus of ‘Paint It Black’ and in the entirety of ‘Bir Eylül Akşamı.’ Even though today, there are many ways a track can be leaked or copied before or after its release, the necessary technology didn’t exist back in the 1960s. This is why the claim that the Rolling Stones got the song from Erkin Koray doesn’t seem solid for some people.

Erkin Koray is a Turkish rock singer known for his hard rock and rock covers of traditional Turkish songs, and he is the pioneer of Turkish Anatolian Rock music. Koray released ‘Bir Eylül Akşamı’ in 1962 with a 45mm record. However, he also created an English song called ‘It’s So Long,’ which was deemed unworthy of release in 1962. The track was eventually released in 1966, 4 months before ‘Paint It Black.’

How Could ‘Bir Eylül Akşamı’ Reach Mick Jagger And Keith Richards In The 1960s?

There is a theory that the only possible way the record could have reached the Rolling Stones would be via the owner of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegün. The world-famous Atlantic Records has represented many legendary bands such as Led Zeppelin, Halestorm, AC/DC, Weezer, and more, including The Rolling Stones during their peak years.

It is argued that the Turkish-American business person Ahmet Ertegün could have listened to ‘Bir Eylül Akşamı’ in Turkey and brought the record with him to the States and made Jagger and Richards listen to it. This experience might have inspired the duo to write ‘Paint It Black.’ Even though Koray’s fans believe this might be true, the Rolling Stones fans think it is a long shot.

What Did Mick Jagger Say?

Mick Jagger talked to Rolling Stone magazine back in 1995 about ‘Paint It Black.’ In the interview, he revealed that they did many cover songs that were highly appreciated and that he didn’t feel that they were being fair. He then continued to state that ‘Paint It Black’ was like a ‘Turkish song.’

Jagger was asked about their record ‘Aftermath’ which included the song ‘Paint It Black’ and he stated:

“That was a big landmark record for me. It’s the first time we wrote the whole record and finally laid to rest the ghost of having to do these very nice and interesting, no doubt, but still cover versions of old R&B songs – which we didn’t feel we were doing justice, to be perfectly honest, particularly because we didn’t have the maturity. Plus, everyone was doing it.

Aftermath has a very wide spectrum of music styles: ‘Paint It Black’ was a kind of Turkish song; and there were also very bluesy things like ‘Goin’ Home;’ and I remember some sort of ballads on there. It had a lot of good songs, it had a lot of different styles, and it was very well recorded. So it was, to my mind, a real marker.”

There hasn’t been a complete confession from the Rolling Stones or a formal claim from Erkin Koray about the inspiration of ‘Paint It Black.’ Even though some people think it’s too much of a coincidence to have two records released in the same period with a very similar melody, others claim there isn’t enough evidence to say that a Turkish rockstar inspired the Rolling Stones. 

You can listen to and compare both of the songs below.