You may have heard the controversy surrounding Sam Smith’s No. 1 single, “Stay With Me,” and the likeness to Tom Petty’s 1989 hit song, “I Won’t Back Down.” After an amicable decision to add Petty and ELO’s Jeff Lynne as songwriters to the British star’s single, Petty has cleared up some rumors surrounding the settlement.
“About the Sam Smith thing. Let me say I have never had any hard feelings toward Sam,” the singer writes on his webiste. “All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by. Sam’s people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement. The word lawsuit was never even said and was never my intention. And no more was to be said about it. How it got out to the press is beyond Sam or myself. Sam did the right thing and I have thought no more about this. A musical accident no more no less. In these times we live in this is hardly news. I wish Sam all the best for his ongoing career. Peace and love to all.”
“Sam’s people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement.”
The “musical accident” Petty has referenced is the chorus structure, pitch, melody and vocal line of Smith’s “Stay With Me” resembling Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” despite Smith ever hearing the former’s famous tune.
“Recently the publishers for the song ‘I Won’t Back Down,’ written by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, contacted the publishers for ‘Stay With Me,’ written by Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips, about similarities heard in the melodies of the choruses of the two compositions,” Smith’s rep tells Rolling Stone. “Not previously familiar with the 1989 Petty/Lynne song, the writers of ‘Stay With Me’ listened to ‘I Won’t Back Down’ and acknowledged the similarity.”
Smith’s rep added, “Although the likeness was a complete coincidence, all involved came to an immediate and amicable agreement in which Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne are now credited as co-writers of ‘Stay With Me’ along with Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips.”
YouTube user envanligfjant edited the two tracks together to show their similarities.
“The Tom Petty song [here is] slightly rearranged to go along the Sam Smith song,” the editor states. “There are actually pieces missing from the Petty song. They do not exactly line up like this! However aside from the tempo and pitch, no alterations have been made to what you hear.”