Maroon 5’s ‘Memories’ is a brazen reworking of Pachelbel’s Canon

14 January 2020, 17:40

By Kyle Macdonald

The Californian band has been diving into the German Baroque *canon* in their latest hit.

Pachelbel’s beloved Canon in D is a staple of classical compilations, and a popular favourite among music lovers and aisle-walking brides.

It also has a very famous chord progression, which is outlined in its first eight notes on the cello and repeated throughout the piece.

This chord progression has inspired lots of other songs and pieces since; in popular music, ‘Go West’ by the Pet Shop Boys, Kylie Minogue's ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ and Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ all contain the ubiquitous chord progression, immediately catching the attention of any cellist or wedding musician.

And now we can add another to the list: ‘Memories’, from American pop/rock/light-funk outfit Maroon 5.

The song was released in the autumn of 2019 and, interestingly, uses both harmonic and melodic material from Pachelbel’s opus. Take a listen:

In ‘Memories’, Maroon 5 take Pachelbel’s eight-note harmonic progression (I-V-vi-iii-IV-I-IV-V), set it in B major and repeat it throughout their hit, as in the style of the original.

Not content just with simply harmonic *canonspiration*, frontman Adam Levine also takes a melodic fragment from Pachelbel to create the main hook of ‘Memories’ tune. It’s the first seven notes of the Violin 1 line here:

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Pachelbel or Maroon 5? 😂

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This line is later sequenced (sung to different notes). Other moments of wordless vocals follow similar contours to the baroque composer’s lines.

For centuries, musicians have been reworking the musical ideas of their contemporaries and predecessors. Great composers such as J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Schumann (and almost everyone else) have transcribed, adapted and reworked pieces that have inspired them. And it’s wonderful that this tradition continues today.

‘Memories’ was written after the death of the band’s manager, Jordan Feldstein, who passed away in 2017. Levine tweeted that “this song is for anyone who has ever experienced loss. In other words, this song is for all of us”.

The song has amassed 350 million views on YouTube peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. That’s a lot of people enjoying a little Pachelbel beneath the surface. What a great thing.