Similarities between Sam Smith‘s 2014 single “Stay with Me” and Tom Petty‘s 1989 hit “I Won’t Back Down” weren’t lost on Petty and his co-writer Jeff Lynne, who fought for credit and royalties on Smith’s song and got them. They struck the deal back in October, according to The Sun, but it only came to light recently, so it won’t affect Grammy voting, which ended on Jan. 16.
“Stay with Me” is nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance at the upcoming Grammys on Feb. 8. According to our racetrack odds, it’s the frontrunner in all three races. However, if Smith does prevail for Song of the Year, the industry’s highest profile honor for tunesmiths, Petty won’t join him at the podium.
In a statement to Billboard, the recording academy’s senior vice president of awards Bill Freimuth said, “Since Lynne and Petty didn’t do any new writing for this work, we are considering their original work to have been interpolated by [James Napier], [William Phillips], and Smith for ‘Stay With Me.'”
Freimuth added, “Lynne and Petty will not be considered nominees nor will they be considered Grammy recipients, should the song win. Rather, they would be given certificates to honor their participation in the work, just as any other writers of sampled or interpolated work.”
Smith didn’t fight Petty and Lynne’s claim, even though he insists the similarities between the songs were coincidental. His representative told Billboard, “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. 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.”
It’s too bad for Petty that he won’t get Grammy credit for his influence on Smith’s song. The veteran rocker has won three Grammys in his career, but never in the general field. A Song of the Year victory would be as much a breakthrough for him as for Smith. Petty does have one chance to win Grammy this year: he’s nominated for Best Rock Album for “Hypnotic Eye,” but he’s an underdog with 33/1 odds.
Do you think the Grammys should include Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne on the Song of the Year nomination for “Stay with Me”? Watch videos of both of their songs below, then respond in our poll and use our drag-and-drop menu to make your Grammy predictions.