Charles Jennens borrowed the words for Messiah from the Bible. Was Handel equally prone to plagiarize? Yes, but mostly from his own earlier works, although lighthearted legend has it that he also borrowed from the popular tune: Yes, We Have No Bananas. Just compare the melody of “YES, we have no” with “HA-le-lu-ia”!

Actually, in the 1920s, while Eddie Cantor’s version of Yes, We Have No Bananas (written by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn) topped the charts in America, the publishers of Handel’s Messiah sheet music, the Westman Company, went to court, arguing that Bananas borrowed a little too liberally from Messiah. They won—and were awarded a share of the song’s profits.—Ed.