This coincidence is a bit contentious. I think it’s not much of a coincidence at all, but Paul McCartney thinks otherwise.
(Just to clear up any possible misinterpretation of that previous sentence: I’ve never met Paul McCartney, let alone had a conversation with him about any songs. I’m fairly certain that Mr. McCartney is completely unaware of my existence.)
As I do with any coincidence – whether it was spotted by me or someone else (thanks, Zolland!) – I go looking to see if it’s been noted anywhere. So I went to the Wikipedia entry for TLC’s “Waterfalls”, and it mentioned the coincidence, citing this part of an A.V. Club interview with Paul McCartney from 2007:
AVC: Are there any songs of yours that you think deserved to be bigger than they were?
PM: There’s quite a few, actually. I like… There’s one called “Daytime Nighttime Suffering,” which I think’s really cool. One called “Waterfalls,” I think is nice. In fact, somebody had a hit, a few years ago, using the first line, “Don’t go jumping waterfalls / Please stick to the lake…” And then they go off into another song. It’s like, “Excuse me?”
AVC: TLC ripped off Paul McCartney? I had no idea!
PM: I think so.
I wasn’t familiar with TLC’s “Waterfalls”, so I zoomed on over to YouTube to hear it. I heard it. But I didn’t hear much of a coincidence.
Here are the TLC lyrics in the chorus of their “Waterfalls”:
Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to
And Mr. McCartney’s in his “Waterfalls”:
Don’t go jumping waterfalls
Please keep to the lake
Not once do TLC sing about “jumping waterfalls”, and not once does Mr. McCartney sing “chasing waterfalls”.
Sure, TLC may have pinched the lyrical idea, but I don’t think it’s a big deal at all – certainly not big enough for Mr. McCartney to feel aggrieved over. And the rest of the lyrics in the TLC song have nothing in common with PMcC’s lyrics. TLC do use the word “rainbow”, and Mr. McCartney uses the word “randrop”. Should Paul be bothered that TLC appropriated the “rain” part of “raindrop” for their “rainbow”?
Or how about 10cc‘s 1973 song, “Waterfall”? Did Paul McCartney rip that off?
Here are the songs in question. I’ll let you decide how ripped off Mr. McCartney was:
And here’s the 10cc song. Did Paul McCartney rip them off?