Are Successful People Creative or is it Really a Creative Re-Work of Old Material?

I recently heard this song called “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran. It’s catchy and I couldn’t help but notice I had heard it somehow, somewhere.

First, have a listen to “Thinking Out Loud”:

Then it hit me. Sheeran’s song really remind me of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On. Check this out:

It’s a pretty iconic song – in fact, almost parodied where you equate “Let’s get it on” to an, ahem, romantic scene, like in Austin Powers 2:

Of course, I’m not the only one who noticed. The Marvin Gaye estate noticed too, as evidenced by their lawsuit. (Sidebar: I think this lawsuit has more merit than their “Blurred Lines” copyright infringment suit, but that’s just me.)

When I searched about the similarity between “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let’s Get it On”, I came across the site Sounds Just Like where there’s head-to-head comparisons between songs.

It turns out there are MANY songs that seem to be ripped/copied from original source material. (Or to say the least, songs “inspired” from previous hits…)

This got me thinking about “originality” and “creativity”. How often have we made negative self-talk, especially phrases like “I’m just not creative, so I could never do [insert goal]”. Yet  as the Gaye/Sheeran comparison shows (plus countless other songs exhibited on the Sounds Just Like site), creating a hit and becoming a success is due to standing on the shoulders of giants who came before you.

Being a successful  creative or originator may not be as clever as we first think. When we think of creative, I’m sure your first thought was of Steve Jobs.

Is his iPod invention really all that special? Or was it merely a Walkman that’s only thinner and digital-based?

Or take this new show I saw on a cooking channel:

So someone thought up of mashing up Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart…and it somehow ‘works’!

Speaking of mash-ups, here is a compilation of a song from Green Day’s American Idiot album shown to be “inspired” from a wide variety of songs:

As a Socially Upward, there may be days you are doing analytical work (e.g. perusing financial statements, going over metrics, drafting contracts). You may think that through your day job, you lost the creativity and originator thinking (or worse, that you never had any).

This post shows you that even mega-selling pop/rock stars may not be as original and creative as we think. They built on previous foundations and made it their own.

So how can you build on what came before you?