The Eagles have maintained that their hit The Long Run (released November 27, 1979, and the title track of their 1979 album) is a tribute to the Stax/Memphis R&B sound. However, one listen to Otis Clay's track Trying to Live My Life Without You (released 1972) and one tends to agree with rock critic Dave Marsh's assessment from his book, The Heart of Rock & Soul:
Having done my share of railing against the idea that white rock and roll is just a rip-off of rhythm and blues, it would be foolish not to acknowledge one of the most outrageous examples in which it was. In 1979, the Eagles took "Trying to Live My Life Without You" Top Ten as a song they "wrote," "The Long Run," the title song of their final multiplatinum LP.
Similarities include: chord progression (while in different keys--TLR in C and TtLMLWY in Eb--both songs follow a I-IV-I-IV-vi-V-I pattern), bass line, drum pattern (Henley even copies the Motown snare on all fours over the pre-chorus), lyrics (TLR: "I used to hurry a lot, I used to worry a lot"; TtLMLWY: "I used to smoke five packs of cigarettes a day"), pre-chorus vocal melody, and production/arrangment (Walsh's deft slide guitar substituted for the Memphis horns, same fat snare sound).
The Long Run (:00) VS Trying To Live My Life Without You (:00)
In the Astley song the 8 measure section bridging the main verse to the chorus is a direct copy of the distinctive chord progression of the verse from the Wonder song. The tempo of the Astley is quite a bit faster but there's no mistaking the "influence." This drove me crazy for a while until I figured it out.
Pharrell Williams' infectious hit Happy, from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack (released December 16, 2013), reflects a range of influences from mid- and late-Sixties Pop/Soul in its verses to mid-Seventies Pop in its choruses. The production and rhythm of Happy's verses are reminiscent of The Capitol's 1966 hit Cool Jerk (1:34) (particularly the drum beat and sound). It's also similar to Wilson Pickett's Land of 1000 Dances (:42), as well as Stevie Wonder's Fingertips Part 2 (:39, i.e. "clap your hands just a little bit louder"), Ray Charles' What I'd Say (3:30), Aretha Franklin's Chain of Fools, and Marvin Gaye's Ain't That Peculiar. The verse is essentially an F major blues progression, featuring an F minor pentatonic riff and a "call and response" between the vocals and the keyboard. Likewise, there are sonic references to The Fifth Dimension's Up, Up and Away (Pharrell even utters the line "I'm a hot air balloon that could go to space) and Donovan's Sunshine Superman (again Pharrell subconsciously sings "Sunshine, she's here you can take a break").
Happy's chorus features a C#maj7-Cmin7-Cmin7-Fmajor chord progression, which at first implies that the key has switched from F major to F minor (i.e. VI-v-v-i). However, the final chord of the chorus (the root) remains major, which provides a pleasant surprise to the listener. This major/minor root shift reminds many of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy, which does the same thing in its second verse (using C#major instead of the expected C#minor). The same chord progression is found in the verses for Hall and Oates' One On One (albeit a whole step higher and slower).
The choruses for Nicolette Larson's Lotta Love (released October 2, 1978), Little Anthony and the Imperial's 1965 classic Hurts So Bad (:25), Minnie Ripperton's Loving You (released January 13, 1975), and Happy, all share the same first two chords and rhythm. Lastly, Happy has a winking melodic/lyrical reference to Cameo's Word Up ("Throw your hands in the air, like you don't care) via the line "With the air like I don't care, baby, by the way."
Robin Thicke has acknowledged that for Blurred Lines, he and producer Pharrell Williams were intentionally trying to make "something with that groove," referring to Marvin Gaye's funky 70's classic Got To Give It Up (released March 15, 1977). From the cowbell, vintage-sounding snare and keys to the studio chatter, falsetto crooning and ad libs, Blurred Lines (released March 15, 2013) definitely pushes the boundaries of what qualifies as a "tribute" track.