Allegations of Plagiarism Against Andrew Lloyd Webber

Michael Byrne, Staff Writer

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Andrew Lloyd Webber, who’s present style of address in Europe is The Right Honourable Lord Lloyd-Webber, has been accused of multiple accounts of plagiarism spanning across his extremely successful composing career. The allegations have spanned over some of Lord Webber’s most notable musicals, The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Cats.

The most noteworthy accusation against Andrew Lloyd Webber comes from the extremely popular band “Pink Floyd”. The infamous theme from Phantom of the Opera sounds eerily similar to a particular riff from Pink Floyd’s song “Echoes”. The band’s bassist at the time, Roger Waters, never sought legal action, claiming that “life’s too long to bother with suing” Lloyd Webber. If you listen to Pink Floyd’s Echoes and then listen to the chromatic riff in “The Phantom of the Opera” they are exactly the same.

Another notable accusation against Lord Webber comes from the estate of Giacomo Puccini because it was settled out of court, meaning there was probably some worry and panic in Webber’s corner. While there was never public admission of guilt, Puccini got money from Webber out of court. Puccini sued Lord Webber over the song “The Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera because Puccini thought it musical plagiarism of an excerpt from his musical La Fanciulla del West. Giacomo Puccini’s lawsuit was over the melody and lyrics “Silently the senses abandon their defenses”.

Another of Lord Webber’s most notable musicals, the rock-opera Jesus Christ Superstar, had people scrutinizing Webber for musical plagiarism. The character of Mary Magdalene has a solo song in the show called “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”.  This song has been under fire for being blatantly stolen from the classical Andante movement from Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto in E Minor”.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is still a musical genius who has produced many outstanding musical compositions. What Lord Webber has done shouldn’t be seen as “plagiarism” but as influence or improvement and personal touches to the original melody or piece of music. Lord Webber’s biographer, John Snelson, wrote that Webber “…brings a new dramatic tension to Mendelssohn’s original melody through the confused emotions of Mary Magdalene. The opening theme may be Mendelssohn, but the rhythmic and harmonic treatment along with new lines of highly effective melodic development are Lloyd Webber’s. The song works in its own right as its many performers and audiences can witness.”