Did The Doors rip off The Kinks?

The tumultuous 1960s bore witness to the rise of iconic rock groups, riding the wave of the 1950s rock and roll boom. The landscape of popular music underwent a radical transformation, thanks to trailblazing acts like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who. Amidst the plethora of legendary rock outfits that defined the era, The Kinks and The Doors emerged as two colossal names, each with a unique history intertwined in shared turbulence.

Hailing from the vibrant city of London in 1963, The Kinks swiftly ascended to rock stardom, leaving an indelible mark on the music scene. Led by the visionary Ray Davies, the band’s innovative use of distortion, achieved by audaciously slicing guitar amplifiers with a razor, set them apart. Their influence resonated not only within the mod-rock milieu of the 1960s but also reverberated through the punk rock revolution that unfolded in the ensuing decade.

Across the Atlantic, The Doors took shape two years later, solidifying their position as one of America’s defining rock ensembles. Spearheaded by the enigmatic Jim Morrison, they played a pivotal role in shaping psychedelic rock. Despite Morrison’s songwriting brilliance, a single track led to controversy, particularly with London’s venerable rockers, The Kinks.

In 1968, The Doors released ‘Hello, I Love You’ as part of their album “Waiting for the Sun,” securing a US number one single. The song deviated from The Doors’ typical countercultural style, displaying strangely commercial elements. However, the controversy did not stem from its style but from its unmistakably familiar guitar riff.

Robby Krieger’s riff in ‘Hello, I Love You’ was a blatant replica of The Kinks’ seminal single ‘All Day and All of the Night,’ released in 1964, a full four years before The Doors’ rendition. The Kinks’ track had soared to number two on the UK singles charts and even reached number seven in the US. For The Doors, lifting such a defining riff was undeniably audacious.

Ray Davies learned of The Doors’ transgression while on tour. Recounting the incident to Mojo in 2012, the legendary songwriter revealed, “I said rather than sue them, can we just get them to own up? My publisher said, ‘They have. That’s why we should sue them!’ Jim Morrison admitted it, which, to me, was the most important thing. The most important thing, actually, is to take [the idea] somewhere else.”

While punk-era groups often borrowed from The Kinks with minimal fallout, this case of musical plagiarism resulted in a UK court ordering The Doors to pay royalties to The Kinks and acknowledge them as songwriters for ‘Hello, I Love You.’ The echoes of this clash between rock titans reverberate through the annals of music history.

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