Now this is something I was not at all aware of until last night. Music has always recycled, recombined, and meme-morphed. But I had no idea that the iconic Thriller bass riff was pulled from Rick James! This makes me certainly want to look up more Rick James. In fact, I think there might well be an industry in tracking down the original samples, and popularizing original recordings.
For more in the same vein, here is a thorough run-down of the tracks Mark Ronson used in Lily Allen's breakout album.