Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More Dylan Thefts

Henry Timrod made some news a couple of weeks ago by getting some of his lines quoted, or re-used, by Bob Dylan in his new album Modern Times. Timrod was a Confederate poet whose works are now in the public domain. Apparently Bob consciously or unconsciously snipped a few florid Victorian phrases and dropped them into some of the old-timey songs on his record. I don't think there's anything really wrong with that; it's not like he took whole passages and used them wholesale.

And yet Dylan, in his memoir Chronicles, comes pretty close to doing exactly that with other authors. Look carefully at this short passage:

Walking back to the main house, I caught a glimpse of the sea through the leafy boughs of the pines. I wasn't near it, but could feel the power beneath its colors. (Chronicles, p. 162)

Compare that to this longer passage from Marcel Proust's Within a Budding Grove, especially the passages in italics:

But when, Mme. de Ville-parisis’s carriage having reached high ground, I caught a glimpse of the sea through the leafy boughs of trees, then no doubt at such a distance those temporal details which had set the sea, as it were, apart from nature and history disappeared ... But on the other hand I was no longer near enough to the sea which seemed to me not a living thing now, but fixed; I no longer felt any power beneath its colours, spread like those of a picture among the leaves, through which it appeared as inconsistent as the sky and only of an intenser blue.

I don't think there can be any doubt that Bob had to have consciously taken these sentences and, with some revision, passed them off as his own.

Another example is from a book that I imagine Dylan knows well, Huckleberry Finn:
Every night we passed towns, some of them away up on black hillsides, nothing but just a shiny bed of lights; not a house could you see. ... There warn't a sound there; everybody was asleep.
And now look at Chronicles, p. 165:
One night when everyone was asleep and I was sitting at the kitchen table, nothing on the hillside but a shiny bed of lights ...
My last exhibit (a less exact quote) comes from a book called Really the Blues (1946) by Mezz Mezzrow and Bernard Wolfe, in which a hipster introduces "his chick" to Mezzrow:
Baby this that powerful man with that good grass that'll make you tip through the highways and byways like a Maltese kitten. Mezz, this is my new dinner and she's a solid viper.
And now, part of Dylan's description of his friend Ray's girl, Chloe Kiel:
She was cool as pie, hip from head to toe, a Maltese kitten, a solid viper — always hit the nail on the head. I don't know how much weed she smoked, but a lot. (Chronicles, p. 102)
And later in Really the Blues, a black man was "sitting there actually talking to a white woman cool as pie."

Now what are we to think of these "borrowings"? I know that borrowing and revising tunes and song lyrics is standard practice in folk and blues music, and Dylan has done plenty of that, quite openly, as have others. That doesn't bother me. But in a sustained piece of prose that is not meant to be sung or played, but taken as the author's own composition, it is not standard practice. In the instances given above, I think Bob comes pretty close to real plagiarism, and for all I know there are more instances in Chronicles yet to be identified. Frankly, as a Dylan fan from way back, I'm a little disappointed. Say it ain't so, Bob.

UPDATE: A couple more.

Jack London, Children of the Frost:
"Rum meeting place, though," he added, casting an embracing glance over the primordial landscape ...
Chronicles, p. 167: I cast an embracing glance over the primordial landscape ...

Jack London, Tales of the Klondyke:
Another tremendous section of the glacier rumbled earthward. The wind whipped in at the open doorway ...
Chronicles, p. 217: Wind whipped in the open doorway and another kicking storm was rumbling earthward.

UPDATE II: Yet more:

Sax Rohmer, Dope (1919), A tiny spaniel lay beside the fire, his beady black eyes following the nervous movements of the master of the house.

Chronicles, p. 167: A tiny spaniel lay at the guy's feet, the dog's beady black eyes following the nervous movements of his master.

London, Children of the Frost: And then they are amazingly simple. No complexity about them, no thousand and one subtle ramifications to every single emotion they experience. They love, fear, hate, are angered, or made happy, in common, ordinary, and unmistakable terms.

Chronicles, p. 169: Yet to me, it's amazingly simple, no complications, everything pans out. As long as the things you see don't go by in a blur of light and shade, you're okay. Love, fear, hate, happiness all in unmistakable terms, a thousand and one subtle ramifications.

UPDATE III (Oct. 2): Jack London, Tales of the Klondyke: Through this the afternoon sun broke feebly, throwing a vague radiance to earth, and unreal shadows.

Chronicles, p. 112: The afternoon sun was breaking, throwing a vague radiance to the earth.

Jack London, White Fang: He carried himself with pride, as though, forsooth, he had achieved a deed praiseworthy and meritorious.

Chronicles, p. 63: He didn't need to say much—you knew he had been through a lot, achieved some great deed, praiseworthy and meritorious, yet unspoken about it.

R. L. Stevenson, Providence and the Guitar: As Leon looked at her, in her low-bodied maroon dress, with her arms bare to the shoulder, and a red flower set provocatively in her corset, he repeated to himself for the many hundredth time that she was one of the loveliest creatures in the world of women.

Chronicles, p. 127: I bought a red flower for my wife, one of the loveliest creatures in the world of women.

62 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd say any amount of allusive fancy, from someone Dylan's stature, is normal in real literature. It's lazy hackwork we criticize for "plagiarism." ("Bad poets borrow, good poets steal.") Your first two examples seem a normal literary way of allusively heightening the significance of what Dylan has to say. The third example is tougher... but all Dylan is doing is imitating a jazzy way of talking together with the "Maltese kitten." Anyone would read the Chronicles passage and think, "Dylan is going for some first-half-of-the-20th-c. jazzy jivy way of talking." Your tracking of the source just shows how deliberately and carefully Dylan created that effect.

Anonymous said...

I think deliberate is the key word.

It's a shame that one of the greatest living lyricists has to resort to such a low level to express himself. Good work.

strangerthanfiction said...

Dylan is such an an accomplished lyricist and wordsmith that we can safely assume that a) he probably reads a lot and b) has an eye or an ear for a well turned phrase. So it is harly surprising to find him using, consciously or unconsciously, a felicitous expression or image lodged away in the the back of the mind.

Baxter said...

If you think about it, Dylan's version of the Proust quote makes no sense. "The leafy boughs of pines." Ever see a pine tree with a leafy bough? Me neither. This is not the writing of someone closely observing a scene.

Anonymous said...

I think anyone familiar with literature will note the frequent re-use/recycling of passages; not as a whole, but by phrasing and words. How many authors, for example, have used the Hemingway-coined phrase " A clean, well lighted place?" I don't think Dylan ever rips whole passages in Chronicles. Identifying phrases as allusions to older writings is a key part of literary analysis. Subject any modern work to the same critical eye that is turned on Dylan's stuff and you are likely to expose many "frauds."

Anonymous said...

What you are describing is a standard practice of well-read writers called literary allusion. It's a technique that has been used by every great writer in the canon including Shakespeare and Joyce. No one has ever considered it plagiarism and the examples you cite do not come anywhere near the legal definition of that term.

Henry Fnord

Chris Floyd said...

Very interesting literary detective work. I once read an excellent study of Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov that pinpointed dozens of similiar "liftings" of phrases and images from other works scattered throughout the novel, chiefly Pushkin, Dickens and Schiller, but also popular songs, religious tracts, etc -- all uncredited, none of them in quotes. Some were lines that any educated Russian reader might be expected to know; others weren't.

There seems to be something similar going on here. Dylan's "plagarism" here and in his lyrics seems of a very peculiar sort, confined mostly to phrases which are then worked into his texts in ways that often have no relation to the original source's use o the phrase -- and sometimes is the opposite of the original usage. For example, in the first example here, Proust writes that he can no longer feel the power of the sea; Dylan says he could still feel the power of the sea. Likewise, with the Timrod snippets dropped into Modern Times, Dylan's use is at odds with Timrod's.

It's hard to say exactly what Dylan is doing with this practice. He obviously doesn't NEED to do it; i.e., it's not like he doesn't know how to handle words or turn a phrase. It may be that when he runs across a phrase that particularly strikes him, he salts it away, either in his memory or even in a box. (He once said that "Jokerman" was "written by the Box," a collection of notes and scraps; and his co-writer on Masked and Anonymous said that was how the script for the movie began: Dylan came in and dumped a collection of scribbled notes on the table -- quotes, ideas, images, etc.)

I come back again to the Dostoevsky study. Again, he seems to be doing the same thing Dylan is doing, turning to account anything he finds useful in putting across the apprehension of reality he wishes to convey. As with Dylan, some of the borrowings are so obivous that anyone would know they are borrowed (as in Dylan's frequent recycling of old blues and folk lines); others in Dostoevsky are more obscure, as with Dylan's use of Timrod and the Yakuza book. You can also find much the same thing in Shakespeare, who adopts whole speeches from other works, adopts lines, ideas and images -- or, with Hamlet, rewrites what appears to have been a quite similar play written by a contemporary.

I realize there are fine lines here, and it could be that Dylan is stepping over them at times. But I don't think any of this vitiates his art, or lessens the impact of the vision of reality -- the emotional weather of being -- that he manages to put across in his work.

Anonymous said...

Whatever. As Bob said in Brownsville Girl, "Oh if there's an original thought out there, I could use it right now."

fairest said...

Ha ha, this was funny. Good stuff. It's takes balls to rip off Proust, huh?

I don't think you're coming from a "we should be outraged" by this stance, right? I hope not.

I think it was Wilde who said bores borrow, and genuis' steal. Not sure what camp Dylan is in, but it does make a point.

fairest said...
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RWB said...

I don't want to defend too quickly, but I'm reminding myself of this, by way of a premise: Chronicles is not the story of Bob Dylan the man. If it were, we'd have lots more on his relationship with his wife and his kids (he might even mention their names!) and plenty of other intimate personal recollections that are not offered. Chronicles is Dylan's way of telling his public story -- to his public. It's the memoir of Dylan the artist. What he's providing is a seemingly very honest and startlingly clear portrait of how he went from being the kid from Hibbing full of dreams to the accomplished songwriter and performer who caused such a ruckus -- in addition to how he arrived at later stages of artistic development. He goes to great lengths to tell us exactly what books he read, what authors he liked and why, what music he loved, what performers fascinated him and what moments of catharsis kicked him towards writing the kinds of songs he came to write. That's what the book is about. In the course of contemplating all those matters and in particular revisiting the literary works that stuck in his mind through the years, perhaps he found it both amusing and appropriate to put some of those writers' phrases into his own memoir -- adapting them to tell his own story.

It's worth remembering that no witnesses have accused him of making up the stories in Chronicles. From the survivors of the early Village days (admittedly there aren't very many of them around) to later characters like Daniel Lanois -- no one has said, "Hey, Bob's imagining that -- it never happened." For that and other reasons we can be reasonably sure that he didn't plagiarize the story that he is telling -- it is what he claims it to be. If, in the course of it -- as is now apparent -- he planted and adapted phrases from some his favorite books, then that's something else.

The ethics of it are debatable, of-course, and they will be debated. All I can say right now is: If Simon & Schuster does a complete recall on the book, I'm pretty sure I'll be holding on to my copy.

Kudos on spotting these things, however. It is something that deserves serious consideration.

It just occurred to me -- despite the "Confessions of a Yakuza" brouhaha over "L & T," when Dylan did his latest round of interviews for Rolling Stone and USA Today, he wasn't asked about it. (Or if he was, they never printed the exchange.) He should not be allowed to get away from his next interview without doing a little accounting for all of this stuff.

Anonymous said...

You got a lotta nerve.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Dylan should sue himself, or give Hootie back his cash...

Anonymous said...

Bob knows well the scrutiny to which his writings – prose, lyrics and otherwise -- are subjected, and he ain’t no pig without a wig. These and the many other as of yet uncovered morsels of petty rhetorical love and theft that likely exist throughout his writings comprise nothing more than a cheeky game of literary hide-and-seek. He knows you are going to play, with or without him, so he plays along. Be grateful. Have fun. “Okay, you Junior Scholastics – how many things can you find in this scene that don’t belong.”

BabyBlue said...
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BabyBlue said...

So when are we going to talk about all the Scripture Dylan lifts puts in his lyrics? He alludes all the time to Scripture - including the current album. He takes phrases right out of that book and never sites where it came from (perhaps many folks don't know that book as well - but he practically swims in it, even now). Why don't we get all upset about his lifting those words? Why - because Dylan writes prose (and makes films) just as he writes songs. That is one of the main reason he's so much fun to listen to (ask TS Eliot, who did the same thing by the way). He alludes to everything, twists it, and puts it out. Poets have been doing this for a very very long time - that's what poets do, just as Robert Burns. And then there's the man himself - Shakespeare - who was a master at it. Many - if not most (if not all) of his plays are based on other people's works (just ask Marlowe) - he just took them and made it better. And that is what Dylan does.

And didn't he tell us this himself - he's the joker and the thief. ;)

bb

Anonymous said...

...and the next thing you know, he will be borrowing from Doonesbury...

Anonymous said...

How much should Led Zepplin pay to the estate of Howlin' Wolf?

Cb said...

What I want to know is how you have tracked all this down! It is easy for an author to lift from various sources that HE knows, but far harder to find them! Kudos!

Anonymous said...

The allusions game is a lot of fun...
I would also like to know how you found the textual allusions in 'Chronicles' - is it some kind of software that compares the entire text of 'Chronicles' to the entire text of everything ever printed? Crazy! Sax Rohmer, Jack London and Proust - gotta love Dylan even more just for putting those names together, surely?

BabyBlue said...

I might suggest the same sort of attention should be paid to TS Eliot's "The Waste Land" which is filled with allusions to other to the works of other poets, writers, philosophers, and scripture. This is what great poets do - the allude to other works, then either juxtapose or twist the original into something different. Chronicles was a successful illustration of what Dylan does not only in his songs, but in the films as well (though the films are very hard to figure out, but they do the same "cut and paste" as Dylan. In fact, in the beat period (and the art period of that time) "cutouts" was quite the rage. Dylan is still a beat poet - even after all these years. But he also is an "everyman's" Eliot as well. He applies the same principles - he is, at the heart of it all, a poet.

bb

jpkang said...

A "six degrees of Dylan" contest... maybe you can get some mileage from your post!

Anonymous said...

Is ones life to be replete with footnotes?

Anonymous said...

Writers have always quoted or borrowed from other writers.However, plagiarism is not just simply borrowing from others, it is using the words or ideas of others and claiming them as your own.Dr Dylan has not acknowledged his various borrowings. This is his "crime." It is becoming apparent that he is a serial plagiarist.A few borrowings are OK, but where do you draw the line?We now have dozens of examples of Dr Dylan's "borrowings." We admire artists for their originality. You can't just go on and on borrowing and claim to be original.I guess we can only excuse Dr Dylan because of his age--his creative juices must be drying up.

agl said...

Herman Melville tells the writer how books are made in REDBURN. HIS FIRST VOYAGE:
At sea, the sailors are continually engaged in "parcelling," "serving," and in a thousand ways ornamenting and repairing the numberless shrouds and stays; mending sails, or turning one side of the deck into a rope-walk, where they manufacture a clumsy sort of twine, called spun-yarn. This is spun with a winch; and many an hour the Lancashire boy had to play the part of an engine, and contribute the motive power. For material, they use odds and ends of old rigging called "junk," the yarns of which are picked to pieces, and then twisted into new combinations, SOMETHING AS MOST BOOKS ARE MANUFACTURED. This "junk" is bought at the junk shops along the wharves; outlandish looking dens, generally subterranean, full of old iron, old shrouds, spars, rusty blocks, and superannuated tackles; and kept by villainous looking old men, in tarred trowsers, and with yellow beards like oakum. They look like wreckers; and the scattered goods they expose for sale, involuntarily remind one of the sea-beach, covered with keels and cordage, swept ashore in a gale.
http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/8118

The word "junk" has several meanings in Melville's writing, but the making of new rope from old rope is it's most remarkable context; e.g., THE PIAZZA TALES-- BENITO CERENO --:
They each had bits of unstranded old junk in their hands, and, with a sort of stoical self-content, were picking the junk into oakum, a small heap of which lay by their sides. They accompanied the task with a continuous, low, monotonous, chant; droning [pg 119] and drilling away like so many gray-headed bag-pipers playing a funeral march.
http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/15859

Apparently Dylan is a junk-dealer, who accompanied the task with a continuous, low, monotonous, chant; droning ...

Anonymous said...

Another relevant author in this discussion is St. Augustine (whom, you remember, Bob once dreamed of). The impression I have from Henry Chadwick's translation of Confessions is that every other phrase is a quoted from somewhere--various books of the bible mostly, of course. At bottom of some people's worries, I think, is a misunderstanding of the nature of creativity and orginality. Wittgenstein talks somewhere about eating sausages and potatoes and how when they become part of your own body it no longer matters which molecules come from where. I suppose it's what you do with them that counts.

sukaton said...

Well, did you actually read the book or did you just scan it line by line with magnifying glass and reference library handy?

I don't know Dylan, but he seems to be a poet with a reference library in his head. His lyrics, and the autobiography, appears to me to be shifting tones all the time - lots of lines piled up on each other, all saying the same thing, each one sounds like it comes from a different poet's mouth. Gives the effect of a certain time, a certain feeling, a certain situation... and where does he claim he came up with every sentence he wrote?

Maybe you're just trying to show off.
"I know where that word came from. And that. And that."
Just try to enjoy what you're reading next time...

bholly said...

The inescapable problem with Yakuza and the Timrod songs is that the liner notes essentailly say everything was written by Bob Dylan when that is clearly untrue. On this point his genius is irrelevant.

All he had to do was give credit to a dead poet and an obscure author and you have no issue. That he didn't is the heart of the problem and raises the issue to the level of plagiarism.

This in turn makes the things in Chronicles more disturbing. It's not a financial or legal issue -it's an ethical issue. We teach, or at least we try to teach, students not to do what Dylan did here.

Many of the examples cited to justify what Dylan did don't wash. Artists sample and take snippets ,not verbatim passages - if they do, then it's wrong. Allusions are not always cited, either because they are well-known as in Biblical passages or because the author is using them in passing, not as the thrust of the work. Maybe Dylan is doing that in some of the Chronicles stuff, altho it would still be nice to cite the original, but that is clearly not the case in Yakuza or Timrod.

You can whitewash it, you can excuse it because he is a trickster, you can pretend it doesn't matter because he is a genius. But at least some of it is plagiarism, i.e the unauthorized use of another's words without attribution along with the claim they are your own. And if some of it is, the other stuff becomes more suspicious.

Any intellectually honest observer must acknowledge it is certainly does no credit to Bob Dylan. 1esuos

marlin tehrani said...
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marlin tehrani said...

Bob Dylan is a phony and has always been so. His contemporaries like John Lennon (a veritable genius) treated him like a clueless brat. This entire discussion above places him on a footing with the likes of Dostoyevski, Shakespeare, Joyce, and Eliot which does as much disservice to these timeless bards (i don't know about Joyce myself, his later works become too impressionist for my tastes) as this honest blogger is purported to have done to H.E. Dylan. It's like comparing Hyperion to a satyr (my words:).

davidjule said...

The dirt of gossip blows into my face and the dust of rumor covers me, but if the arrow is straight and the point is slick it will pierce through dust no matter how thick.

I think Mr. Dylan has more than earned to right to develop his art as he sees fit, and not be distracted by a bunch of wantabees, whining and carping about something they couldn't possibly comprehend.

Robert McIntyre said...

I would say three things:

1. He's basically a composer and composers sample music from all over the place and always have, it makes sense that he would do the same when writing prose.

2. I doubt whether he does it consciously, as someone who has said he can't even read music he has probably developed a prodiguous talent for storing things up and retrieving them he needs them.

3. His own body of original is still vast, as people on here have already quoted him. As far as we're aware songs like Visions of Johanna ("jewels and binoculours hang from the head of the mule" etc.) are his own work and in his prime he was about 10 years ahead of any other songwriter.

Anonymous said...

(1) Dylan's limitless ear has absorbed countless phrases and passages that will drift through the windmills of mind . . . in an out of the turbines and onto the page.

(2) Pick up Gifford's _Ulyssess Annotated_. Note every time Joyce riffs, borrows, links, alludes, pastiches, mosaics, and steals from other authors.

(3) Consider the foolishness and horror of the Goll/Celan plagiarism case and so forth.

(4) Consider the Dylan writes masterful tunes known the world over, while you're playing search-engine Nancy Drew on a blog. Don't you feel like creating something yourself? Nick a line from _Chronicles_ to start yourself off.

Fnord.

Ed said...

Judging from the resentful and narrow-minded reaction of Dylan-worshippers the world over, it appears as though I've really struck a nerve. Apparently whatever their hero does is fine with them. Fair enough; but why can't one appreciate the positive contributions of Dylan and, at the same time, lament the occasional lack of inspiration that causes him to sometimes steal the words of others?

Hey, anonymous (brave of you to conceal your identity), I've written 3 books and about 25 articles. I never had to steal a line from anybody to get started.

mad said...

we can say what we want, but man, he sure has been a great musician!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReIEDHMu0Zw

Anonymous said...

Of course it's deliberate. Think about it for a few more minutes. Ancient techniques. Pure genius as per the usual, and over many heads undiscerning.

He's been doing this for a while, and it seems to be effective. The list of those who have is long and impressive, and the mysterious workings doubly so.

Anonymous said...

Dylan is a true artist, and as such is multifaceted.

There is no ownership of any of the things being argued here. Not a one.
Anyone remotely concerned with and familiarized with evolutionary creation knows this, and the subject is laughable. It is in fact quite narrow-minded to think one owns something outright, especially something borne of ideas/creativity. NO ONE can explain or define what occurs, no matter if the act is ballet, football, or folk music. Ownership of these energies is absurd.

That's why he affixes his name, to give rise to this point (not to mention the immensely profound symbols/links/references embedded in his work, from day one).

EMC said...

Bob, is that you? Stop posting as "anonymous"!

Anonymous said...

I've never put much stock in Bob Dylan's lyrics or his music. Never struck me as great, except for maybe "Queen Jane Approximately" and "Like a Rolling Stone."

If you want a good lyricist go listen to Lou Reed.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who reads seriously and writes creatively will understand that when writing, phrases from one's readings will come out in new contexts, without one necessarily being aware of it. I have written poems and essays and have later noticed I had incorporated phrases and images from authors I hadn't thought of in years or hadn't read since childhood or high school.

Any good reader and writer is going to naturally possess a huge "word hoard." It's part of having poetic talent. Some, e.g. Eliot, are more deliberate, but these samples in Dylan seem more par for the course. it would be interesting to run a search on Proust (in French) to see where his allusions come from: probably someone's done that already.

Every writer's been influenced by someone. True plagiarism is more wholesale. That being said, if one knows one's influences one could mention them somewhere, for transparency if nothing else.

Anonymous said...

Jumping in late here but a few thoughts:

1. Copyright as a mechanism of discouraging plagiarism is a relatively new concept within the history of linguistic creativity. i.e. songwriting and story telling. It's probably no more than four hundred years old. At any given time, up to the period of the printing press, most stories and especially songs were handed back and forth between people who would change things or lift whole verses from other songs/poems/etc. Nobody owned a phrase or a story so the intermingling of stories and song fragments was a given and goes back probably to the Bible and before. My guess is that Bob being a FOLK singer is actually writing folk songs the traditional way. He probably picked this up from old blues singers or from Woody Guthrie himself. There is a very strong tradition before copyright laws were enacted of alluding or referencing from another work. In literary terms I believe it's called intertextualism.

2. Personally I believe Bob was doing this from the beginning. When you compare his lyrics even to the early Beatles or to any other songwriter of the time, the key element that separates his work is how literate and poetic his lyrics are. He moved pop song lyric writing into the realm of literature. It seems obvious to me that the most direct way to break that kind of ground is to make use of what's already been done.

3. I personally don't think this is legally plagiarism. But I do think on an ethical level it's hypocrisy. It's like George Bush enforcing drug laws he broke himself. It's in Dylan's best interest to sustain the illusion of gifted lyrical savant/genius. That's what keeps people defending him and buying his albums. And it's also in the interest of the mainstream media that would rather not tarnish Dylan's reputation. I've not seen a single mainstream paper cover this issue with more than a glossed over snippet's worth of attention. It's only showing up in blogs. Even Junichi Saga was "honored" that Dylan would steal from him. Imagine this was ANYBODY else besides Bob Dylan, they wouldn't survive the media backlash. But we hold Dylan in such high esteem we can't bear to see our hero but in the best possible light. Here's an example: compare Dylan's "reuse" to Kaavya Viswanathan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaavya_Viswanathan. Very similiar lifting and reworking of other people's material just like Bob. But unlike Dylan she loses her book contract and ends up being dragged through the coals by every paper around. And at the same time not one journalist has asked Dylan a single question about his co-option of other's work. It's not a coincidence.

Dylan's alibi is air tight: He's Bob Dylan.

Anonymous said...

Too much Dylan worship here to find an honest opinion. Suppose an entire generation was seducted by a fraud and plagarist? I'd call that very interesting indeed.

Anonymous said...

Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.

This I do believe to be a fact.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read all of this, so I wonder if anyone has suggested that what he is doing might be a version of Burroughs' cutups.

Mel said...

Dylan's "Song To Woody" on his first album is attributed to Bob Dylan, but uses the music to Woody Guthrie's "1913 Massacre" without any attribution. Also, "With God On OUr SIde" does the same with "The Patriot Game," though Dylan did mention this once in concert. So why am I not worried about this?

kevin cramsey said...

He's not a fraud, as one blogger suggested, but he is a thief of sorts. True, "borrowing" tunes is a folk-music tradition, but generally the lyrics are re-written. Dylan's thievery seems to be increasing with his advancing years, as does his constant reuse of traditional blues song structures in his newer songs. It's interesting that in one of his new songs, "My Wife's Hometown," Dylan credits blues musician Willie Dixon as a co-writer because he cribbed the melody from one of Dixon's old songs. The fact that Dixon -- or his publishers -- sued Led Zeppelin years ago for stealing "Whole Lotta Love" probably prompted Dylan to issue the writing co-credit so that he would not find himself embarassed by a similar type of lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

Its good that this stuff gets revisited and put back out there in a new work. Dylan has always been educational and opened his audience up to all types of artists, Woody Guthrie being a fine example, Blind Willie McTell and many, many more.

inthealley said...

T.S.Eliot ...........

Shakespeare .....

Milton ...........

And so on ............

joesmithrealname said...

Careful disection of the man's career would lead to the idea that he's been doing exactly this since the beginning. I appreciate his 'footnotes' throughout literature's history, and have been lead down many a road I would otherwise not have ventured.

(being well read me'self, I would not be surprised to find that my OWN writing style as evidenced here is reminiscent of someone I've read)

Ed said...

It's not "reminiscent," you goofball. It's just copying. Did you even read the post?

Flabbergast said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Flabbergast said...

Wow. This is as fine an example as any of why academics should not waste our time or their own by writing about or even commenting on popular music or art. You just don't get the point, do you? Congrats on making yourself look like a fool with a PhD, with far too much spare time.

-Flabbergast

Ed said...

Flabbergast, it is the sign of a weak mind to say that someone "doesn't get it." If you have a rational or reasoned response to my post (which I doubt), then give it. If not, then go be shallow somewhere else.

Anonymous said...
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Burt said...
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mayor_pufnstuf said...

Those who worship at the altar of Dylan will always defend him.

Was it not allusion then when Hootie and the Blowfish used some of Dylan's lyrics? They even acknowledge him in the song.

Not in Dylan's opinion. Which is why he sued. Nor would it have been the opinion of the courts. Which is why Dylan walked away with a substantial settlement.

Dylan is just as guilty. The only difference is, he is a hypocrite to boot.

Pete Walker said...

Dylan has never had an original thought in his life. An unadulterated fraud in both his personal life and his music. Take it from an old folkie who's seen him since his N.Y.C. days.

chas said...

@Ed

You offer no sources for the literary "thefts" you accuse Mr. Dylan of. I take it you discovered all of these on your own, that this is all your own original scholarship...

Erich said...

Thanks for the examples of plagiarism cited, from Timrod, and, from numerous sources in Chronicles. I knew of Zimmy copying without credit from Dr. Junichi Saga's Confessions of a Yakuza - but this grouping of citations helps put into clearer context the comments of Joni Mitchell making news this week.

Speaking with a Los Angeles Times reporter, Mitchell in an aside, says of Bob Dylan:

"Bob is not authentic at all. He's a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception."

Some less candid Dylan fans are defending their hero, but, a writer, even a songwriter, can argue with the facts of the matter.

Erich said...

Some less candid Dylan fans are defending their hero, but, a writer, even a songwriter, can't argue with the facts of the matter.

The perils of posting in the middle of the night. Typos are not so easily spotted!

Discussion of Joni Mitchell's comments has landed on the Village Voice's Michael Musto blog. There, one is reminded that Bob Dylan wrote "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" telling Joan Baez it was about her. Years later, in a song to his wife, "Sara", he wrests the song from Joan, saying it's about Sara.

A man who lies to those nearest and dearest about his declarations of love, (to suit his immediate goal), well, again, you can like or not like the music, regardless, but you can't dispute that the person is being fake.

Ed Wagemann said...

I like the fact that Dylan has done this throughout his career. It helps keep history alive and introduce historical figures to younger generations. I just hope he never lifts anything from eminem.

diogenese said...

The winding roads of genius and the straight roads of improvement.

I wrote this,(with "an allusion" to William Blake).