Same Tune, Different Song: Musical Similarities Throughout Pop Culture
By Denise Warner Posted May 22nd 2010 01:00PM
Last weekend, I attended my friend's graduation from the University of Akron's law school. At the end of the ceremony, we were asked to stand and sing the alma mater.
Having never attended the school, I didn't know the song. Or did I?
When the orchestra cued up, to my surprise, I had heard it before. Sure the lyrics were different -- but it was unmistakable to anyone who had ever carried a watermelon. Akron's alma mater is set to the same tune as 'Kellerman's Anthem' from 'Dirty Dancing.'
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But the 'Dirty Dancing'-Akron connection isn't the only instance of musical copycats in pop culture. Coincidentally, a day before this realization, I heard 'Maryland, My Maryland,' while watching the Preakness. It sounds an awful lot like 'O, Christmas Tree.' (Or 'O, Tannenbaum' for the more traditional types out there.)
Elvis may have been a groundbreaker, but 'It's Now or Never' was nothing new. It's derivative of 'O Sole Mio.'
Even kids' melodies stay the same -- for example, 'The Alphabet Song' and 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.'
Schools seems to be a big culprit of this trend. The University of Virginia's 'The Good Old Song' could be sung at midnight on New Year's Day and no one would be the wiser.
In fact, my own university's alma mater doubles as the German national anthem. (This technically has no pop culture significance, but I'm being indulgent, so bear with me.)
And, of course, there's the whole 'God Save the Queen' and 'America' debacle. Yes, we have the 'Star-Spangled Banner,' but it's still weird sharing a song with another country.
The lesson here being that it's not just movies and TV shows that borrow heavily from each other. Can't think of your own melody? Take one from somewhere else and slap different words on it and boom. New song.
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