When it comes to music, there’s a fine line between inspiration and a total rip-off. Many artists have come under fire for stealing songs even if they didn’t intend to. Tom Petty had a long-standing career and served great hits since the ’70s.
It, therefore, makes sense why some artists would sample his songs. In 2001, after public debate, The Strokes admitted to ripping Petty off for their hit “Last Nite.”
Tom Petty thought it was funny The Strokes admitted to ripping him off
“Last Nite” is a song by The Strokes from their debut album, Is This It, released in October 2001. The song was a moderate hit in the UK Singles Chart that year but did well in the American charts debuting in the top five on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks chart.
The Strokes sampled “American Girl” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers for the song’s opening guitar riff and overall structure. When the band released the song, the public quickly pointed out how similar it sounded to Petty’s 1977 hit.
However, the band didn’t try to hide the fact that they ripped off Petty’s hit. The Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas said:
“People would say, ‘You know that song ‘American Girl’ by Tom Petty? Don’t you think it sounds a little like that?’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah, we ripped it off.'”
As it turns out, Petty himself also heard the similarities between the two songs, but he had a fantastic reaction to the band admitting to the rip-off. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2006, Petty said:
“The Strokes took ‘American Girl’ for ‘Last Nite.’ There was an interview that took place with them where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, ‘OK, good for you.”
The singer further told the publication that he didn’t mind saying, “It doesn’t bother me.”
A glimpse at Tom Petty’s career
Before Petty became a member of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, he had a band called the Epics and later transformed into Mudcrutch. The band released a song, “Depot Street,” which failed to chart, and after they split up, the singer pursued a solo career.
Petty reunited with Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell, Ron Blair, and Stan Lynch to form Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and released “American Girl” and “Breakdown,” both of which did well in the UK.
Together the band released several albums, which did well before splitting up. In 1988, Petty teamed up with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Lynne to start the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys.
Petty continued performing Traveling Wilburys songs in his shows and especially loved playing “Handle with Care.” Petty sold over 80 million records worldwide in his career and was considered one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
A rundown of The Strokes’ career
The Strokes released their first EP in 2001, titled The Modern Age. The EP sparked a bidding war among major labels, with RCA Records eventually winning and signing the artists. The band released their debut album Is This It in 2001 to critical acclaim.
The band released Room On Fire and First Impressions of Earth, which had strong sales but didn’t march their debut album in critical success. They took a five-year break and returned with Angles in 2011 and Comedown Machine in 2013 to dwindling sales and mixed reception.
In 2020, The Strokes returned with The New Abnormal, which won a Grammy in 2021. As of 2020, The Strokes have sold over 5 million albums worldwide, according to BMG.