Why Does ‘All By Myself’ Sound So Similar to Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2?

Byvu lita

Mar 18, 2024

How did Sergei Rachmaninov secure a songwriting credit for a contemporary pop ballad long after his passing? The explanation lies within the timeless popularity of his Piano Concerto No.2…

The renowned American singer-songwriter Eric Carmen’s 1975 chart-topper, ‘All By Myself’, surprisingly credits an unexpected collaborator among its songwriters.

According to the liner notes, it appears that Sergei Rachmaninov, renowned for his captivating piano compositions and symphonic masterpieces, also ventured into the realm of power ballads.

The twist? Rachmaninov had passed away over 30 years prior to the song’s release.

Carmen, a pianist with classical training, meticulously crafted a new solo, composing four bars at a time. After approximately two months of dedicated effort, he had assembled a full piano interlude, awaiting the perfect song to accompany it.

While in the midst of his writing, Carmen found himself immersed in the melodies of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2. It was during the enchanting embrace of the second movement’s Romanticism that inspiration dawned upon him.

Eric Carmen’s 1975 pop power ballad ‘All By Myself’ was inspired by Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto.
Eric Carmen’s 1975 pop power ballad ‘All By Myself’ was inspired by Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto. Picture: Getty

The melody crafted by Rachmaninov weaves its way among the piano, flute, and clarinet in his piano concerto, later serving as the foundational tune for the verses of “All By Myself” as interpreted by Carmen.

Utilizing Rachmaninov’s meandering harmonic theme posed a challenge for Carmen, necessitating the incorporation of analogous chord progressions beneath his pop melody. This distinctive musical element, uncommon in pop songs, demands the expertise of a proficient songwriter like Eric Carmen or Sergei Rachmaninov to execute successfully.

Yuja Wang – Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No. 2

The issue arose from the fact that while Rachmaninov’s music was in the public domain in the United States, meaning it was no longer subject to copyright laws, this wasn’t necessarily true in other regions of the world.

Following the album’s debut, Carmen received communication from the Rachmaninov estate. Together, they reached an agreement: in addition to crediting Rachmaninov as a songwriter, the estate would receive a 12 percent portion of the song’s royalties.

And thus, the esteemed Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov found himself included in the ranks of ‘chart-topping power ballad’ songwriters, with one of his compositions gracing the performance repertoire of none other than Celine Dion.

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