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> Copycat Song Titles
post Sep 27 2011, 05:55 AM
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Quite often I go searching on the internet for the lyrics of a forgotten 20s or 30s song, only to find that there's one or more published songs with the same title but altogether different lyrics than the composition I'm looking for.

This brazen infringment of copyright laws puzzled me, and so I asked a musician friend about it and he told me that song titles can't be copyrighted, the exception being a word or combination of words that heretofore never existed. An example would be "Californication," the title of a song composed, copyrighted and recorded by a California band -- which later sued some organization for using the word in a printed promotional format.

I found more detailed info regarding copyright and trademark issues by googling "The Straight Dope: copyright song titles".

As an aside, I've also become gradually aware of the common usage of popular sayings (or expressions) in a great many of the song titles and lyrics of the Jazz Age. There's an astounding number, once I became aware of the practice, and they serve a practical purpose in helping to get the message across. Following is a long-forgotten novelty tune. See how many sayings you can ID from just this single composition. I count 5, including the song title.


When I start turning the lights down low
She holds my hand and whispers -- NO!
Let's don't and say we did

And every time I beg a kiss
Do I get kissed -- NO! -- I get this
Let's don't and say we did.

She's just the type for lovin'
In a cozy corner...
But when I get her there
Then she don't want-ter

Well I'll be darned if this is right
Is this the way to say goodnight?
I might as well go fly a kite
Let's do -- and say we did !

Selecting and then formulating an interesting theme around a popular saying (as this composer obviously did) is no mean feat -- just try it. It sounds and looks easy -- but nay! How do I know that? Because I couldn't make out the vocalist's words in the next-to-last line in the last stanza, and so had to devise a substitute. It took me all of an hour to come up with a line that not only fit the measured notes, but included a popular saying (go fly a kite), made sense, and rhymed as well.

Pick a saying and try it. Don't (yawn) forget the No-Doze...


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