Ben Folds/Elton John question

Judging by the lack of responses to my “Ben Folds Five reunion show” thread, this is likely to sink like a stone, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. In this interview, Ben Folds says that Elton John called "when he heard Rockin’ the Suburbs to tell me that he really liked the way I ripped off one of his songs. [Laughs] I didn’t realize I’d done it, and in fact, I quasi-argued with the man for about three seconds until I realized that I had. “Oh, that song! Oh, fuck.” He goes, “No, no, no…I’m not gonna sue you or anything, ‘cause I’m really happy. I like it.”

So my question is, what Elton John song did Ben rip off? I’m a big fan of both of them, but I’m having a hard time figuring out which song they’re talking about. Any ideas?

I can’t figure it out, either.

Ben Folds’ whole style is sort of an updated version of Elton John (and Billy Joel, and Joe Jackson to some degree) but I think it’s more charitable to call it an homage than a rip-off. As to one specific song, though, I really couldn’t say.

Well yeah, I get that he’s very influenced by Elton and Billy, etc. But “rip-off” was Ben Folds’ term, not mine.

I guess we can assume Elton was talking about one of his well-known songs… “Zak and Sara” sounds vaguely like “Teacher I Need You” but I don’t think he would expect anyone to know that song. Any other ideas?

Folds stated in an interview I read about the time either “Rockin The Suburbs” or “Rienhold Mesner” (Ben Folds Five) was released that he never listened to Billy Joel, but does attribute Elton John as one of his influences. Just a sidebar, your honor.

I submit that that has to be untrue. I mean, he might not consider himself a big fan who owns a bunch of Joel albums, but there’s no way you grew up at Ben Fold’s age listening to the radio and didn’t hear a ton of Billy Joel. I’ve never owned or borrowed a Michael Jackson album, but I’d never say that I never listened to Michael Jackson. And if I ever released an album of soul-influenced dance pop, it’d be pretty dumb to claim that Michael Jackson had no influence on it.

He may not consider him an influence, but it’s undeniable.

That’s just what he said in that interview. I thought it was a bit far-fetched myself. But Chapel Hill is an odd place when it comes to radio and popular music.

I agree. You can hear a lot of Billy Joel influence in Ben’s music.

It was tiny dancer
sorry about being so late

To me “listening” to music implies actively listening, ie either deliberately putting the disc on or actively noticing and enjoying something that is on the radio. I doubt that Ben Folds is suggesting he’d never heard any Billy Joel before. I’ve heard Billy Joel songs, but I wouldn’t say I’ve ever “listened to Billy Joel”.

Back in 1998 Ben Folds did an interview where he mentioned that Elton’s live album “11-17-70” was a big influence on him, especially since that band also had a no-guitar lineup.

Be sure to look for a track with himon Ke$ha’s upcoming album. In addition, he did a kick-ass cover of Kesha’s song “Sleazy” ( ) that was almost as cool as the original. (The link has both versions.)