This TunesDay, let’s start with a question. Who wrote “Crossroads?”
If your immediate answer was “Eric Clapton” or even “Cream,” you fail. If you know your music, you know it was Robert Johnson, a legendary bluesman who died at the ripe old age of 27 (along with Brian Jones, Alan Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison – quite a club). This is the original:
It was recorded by Cream (along with one of the greatest rock guitar solos in history) live in March of 1968, some 32 years after Johnson. It’s been recorded many times since by many people including The Doors, Rush, The Allmans, and Phish. Most of them followed Cream’s interpretation – their version of history. Their version became our version and that’s the business point made by the song.
You probably have had the experience in your work life of having someone get the credit for another’s hard work. Sometimes, as in the case of Crossroads, the person getting the credit (Clapton) took a great idea (Johnson’s) and made it better. The problem with that is it’s rare that the person getting the credit did much of anything other than to present the idea as their own. In some cases, this version of the big lie gets that person promoted or hired into a job for which they’re totally unqualified while the originator gets barely a nod. You can count on them having received the blame, however, had things not worked out very well.
I’m hardly ever surprised any more when I read a piece in the press and realize it’s just a regurgitated press release. That’s fine – I even do it to a certain extent here on the screed. I try, however, to state it as a quote and I always link to the original. I like to think I make the press release better by providing context and interpretation. I certainly don’t take credit for the original research if that’s what’s in the release.
There is nothing wrong with taking a good idea and making it great – just as Amazon, eBay, or Apple. Clapton always gave credit to Robert Johnson. It just disturbs me when I see how often I hear reports of someone getting credit for ideas I know first-hand were developed by others. It would be nice if the reporters would do a little digging and not regurgitate everything they’re given. What do you think?