The Friday Pickle: When Is Picking From The Past Simply Plagiarism?

Posted by Craig Borlase on 21 August 2015

Read enough interviews with songwriters talking about their new album and you’d be forgiven for thinking that there was a law that forbade any of them writing a new song WITHOUT containing lyrics that have been lifted directly from an ageing hymn or Psalm.

So what? I mean, what’s wrong with anchoring modern worship in the wisdom of the past? Much of contemporary culture is neophyte enough as it is, and reminding ourselves of our roots can only be a good thing, right?

Yeah, but... can we really call the lyrical part of the job ‘songwriting’ when most of the words have simply been rejigged so that the rhyme and rhythm work better? Isn’t that more like song-redrafting than songwriting?

A lot of these writers are gifted, especially when it comes to melody, song structure and the creation of simple hooks that connect deeply with modern worshippers.

But are we at the risk of putting them on a pedestal they don’t deserve?

Of maybe we just need to recognise that nothing ever of us create will even come close to that which was formed by God’s hands. We’re only ever offering up pale reflections.

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