The way we improve as humans is by finding a better way of doing things. It is very rare that we improve as humans by doing something from scratch. So in other words we copy what we see and we improve upon it. We do that from the day we are born.
The whole English rock movement in the sixties was born from copying the blues and folk movements and improving on them.
Keith Richards even went on to say that you can’t copyright the blues as all of the blues standards were copied over and over again so that thousands of derivative works existed.
Deep Purple built a career on taking certain sections from jazz standards that Jon Lord knew and turning them into rock songs.
Led Zeppelin built a career on taking certain sections from other obscure songs and turning them into definitive masterpieces.
Black Sabbath had their roots in blues, classical and jazz. They borrowed from those genres. Listen to Bill Ward’s drumming on the early records. It’s almost got a swing, jazz feel to it.
Metallica initially built a career on taking certain sections from obscure New Wave Of British Metal acts and turning them into thrash metal masterpieces. For the self-titled BLACK album, the lead off track “Enter Sandman” has an intro that is copied and improved on from a local Californian band.
It is human nature that we are always looking at ways to improve. And copying something that came before, and then adding incremental improvements to it is how we do it. I see it in my children. In how they take things in, how they learn and how they copy things and add their own unique touch to it.
In the music that we listen to there are always elements of copying. And that, really, is what happens all the time.
Copying is there and it has made a lot of people upset over the last 40 years. I always love it when a musician says “the songs are like my children”. I have children and there is no chance I can use that analogy.
One thing I do know is that copying is a key ingredient in the process of creating new works and it is a shame that the corporations that owe the majority of the copyrights are destroying this culture so that they can protect their bottom lines.