When Red Hot Chili Peppers Were Accused Of Ripping Off Tom Petty

It is common in the music industry to hear that many musicians have been ‘heavily inspired’ by the works of others. It is fair to say that a hundred percent originality is almost impossible as each of us is affected by the things that speak directly to our souls. The musicians are also no different in this sense, and they often openly list their inspirations.

They may take certain elements from a musician they admire, but they eventually use them in a different way and create an original piece of music. However, these inspirations are not welcomed by everyone, and sometimes musicians or bands are exposed to serious accusations.

The music industry is naturally filled with hundreds of accusations regarding ‘inspirations.’ The Red Hot Chili Peppers also confronted a severe accusation related to their hit song, ‘Dani California.’ To learn more about it, we need to dive into the bottom of this interesting feud.

Did Red Hot Chili Peppers Steal Tom Petty’s ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’?

Tom Petty released his compilation album ‘Greatest Hits’ in 1993 with his band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The hit song, ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance,’ written by Tom Petty, appeared first on this album. The song’s music video also attracted great attention, and it even won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video in 1994.

On the other hand, Red Hot Chili Pepper’s hit song ‘Dani California’ was released in 2006 in their ninth studio album, ‘Stadium Arcadium.’ The song was a huge success as it won both Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Local in Grammy Awards.

Shortly after the album’s release, Dan Gaffney, who is a radio presenter, claimed that there are some parallels between Tom Petty’s ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Dani California.’ Gaffney accused the RHCP’s members of plagiarising Petty’s song. They compared the chord progression and thought that their tunes were very similar to each other.

Besides the tunes, Gaffney asserted that their themes were even close to each other. ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ is about a girl from Indiana named Mary Jane, but it also has other interpretations due to Mary Jane’s reference, which means marijuana in inofficial language. ‘Dani California,’ on the other hand, tells the story of a poor, young Southern girl named Dani, who went through a difficult life. It seems like there are some similarities between the themes as they are both about a girl.

After Dan Gaffney’s claims, this was also discussed on different platforms and became a subject of a hot debate. Some said their similar chord progressions don’t prove that the song was ripped off as they were pretty standard in music.  Others claimed that Petty’s song had some parallels with The Jayhawks’ ‘Waiting For The Sun’ released in 1992.

Eventually, Tom Petty was asked about this plagiarism issue in his interview with Rolling Stone, and he said that he doesn’t think the RHPC members had a bad intention. Petty stated that many songs have similar sounds; thus, it is common to encounter these types of accusations. Then, Tom Petty revealed that he doesn’t consider filing a lawsuit against RHPC because he thinks these are trivial things and they have enough of them in the music industry.

Tom Petty told Rolling Stone that:

“I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock ‘n’ roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry. The Strokes took ‘American Girl,’ and I saw an interview with them where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, ‘OK, good for you.’

If someone took my song note for note and stole it maliciously, then maybe I’d sue. But I don’t believe in lawsuits much. I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs.”

You can listen to Tom Petty’s ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ and the RHCP’s ‘Dani California’ below and pick your side.