When Kylie Minogue sang "I Should Be So Lucky", she was not merely celebrating the fleeting joys of bubble-gum pop stardom, but subtly reinterpreting the work of Johann Pachelbel, a 17th-century German composer and organist.
Pachelbel's Canon in D Major was not only the basis for this, but countless other pop songs, according to Minogue's former producer Pete Waterman, who claims that everyone from the Beatles to Barry Manilow and 1990s Liverpudlian indie band the Farm have turned classics into pop.
Waterman, whose acts have had 22 number one hits, said the majority were stolen from the 19th-century German opera composer Richard Wagner, but he was always careful to disguise the link.
"If I'm good at what I do, you shouldn't be able to hear where I've taken it from," he said. "I've stolen from Wagner about 20 times, and what I take from him is pathos, string runs and harmonies. But my job is to make sure you don't spot it.
"We changed a few things around but if you listen to 'You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)' [a 1985 hit for Dead or Alive], the strings are straight off 'Ride of The Valkyries' – they do all the glissandos and the wind-ups. They do the same things but differently.
"For people like myself, the Beatles and Burt Bacharach, the tune was always the most important thing. If you look at the greatest pop writers, you'll always be able to spot the classical influence."
Minogue's first hit was based on the work of Pachelbel, whose canon had provided a formula for dozens of pop songs, he said. "Pachelbel's canon ... is almost the godfather of pop music because we've all used that in our own ways for the past 30 years," he told BBC Music Magazine.
"The Farm used it for 'All Together Now' and we used it for 'I Should Be So Lucky' by Kylie."
Borrowing from the classics was widespread, he claimed, pointing to Barry Manilow's "Could It Be Magic", a reworking of Chopin's Prelude in C Minor, and Alicia Keys' "Piano & I", which makes use of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.
Waterman said the original composer should always be credited if a pop song was clearly based on a classical piece, but maintained that his approach was not copying, rather using the original as a springboard to create something new. "The composer was only the inspiration while I sat at the easel," he said.
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