Thursday, September 13, 2012

Deconstructing Dylan's Rant

All the world knows by now that the following exchange between Mikal Gilmore and Bob Dylan is soon to appear in Rolling Stone:
Gilmore: I want to ask about the controversy over your quotations in your songs from the works of other writers, such as Japanese author Junichi Saga's Confessions of a Yakuza, and the Civil War poetry of Henry Timrod. In folk and jazz, quotation is a rich and enriching tradition, but some critics say that you didn't cite your sources clearly. What's your response to those kinds of charges?
Dylan: [Laughs.] Yes, I have gotten inspiration from these sources and re-used words from them in my songs. But I didn't feel the need to cite the sources. As you say, it's part of tradition to freely borrow words from others. I don't really see a problem with that, do you? I don't think people should be disturbed by it.
Ha ha! Just kidding. What Dylan actually said was the following. I've provided a speech-act translation for each section so that his thought patterns can be clearly seen.
Dylan: Oh, yeah, in folk and jazz, quotation is a rich and enriching tradition. That certainly is true. It's true for everybody, but me. There are different rules for me.[Everybody does it, why not me?] And as far as Henry Timrod is concerned, have you even heard of him? Who's been reading him lately? [Besides me.] And who's pushed him to the forefront? [Me, that's who.] Who's been making you read him? [Me again.] And ask his descendants what they think of the hoopla. [If Henry Timrod were alive today, he woud thank me for getting him some press time, even if I never actually mentioned him.] And if you think it's so easy to quote him and it can help your work, do it yourself and see how far you can get. Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. [It's just as hard to borrow somebody else's words as it is to write your own. Seriously. I mean it.] It's an old thing – it's part of the tradition. It goes way back. [Everybody does it, why not  me?] These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you've been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified. [If you really want to know, all my enemies have always been anti-Semites.] All those evil motherfuckers can rot in Hell. [Golly, am I mad!]
Wow. So, you think maybe Bob is just little bit touchy about people noticing his habit of using the work of others without attribution? Yikes. Nobody will ever say "chillin' like Dylan" again.


Ishman Bracey said...

Bob's comment is entirely appropriate and fittingly ribald.

You don't think he did not know people would find Timrod through him or now (in his new work) Whitter?

All of his work is packed with references and allusions--he learned that art from T. S. Elot, Woody Guthrie, and Chuck Berry (who stole his famous guitar riff from T Bone Walker who stole it from . . . ), among countless others.

Frankly, your post is ironic confirmation of Bob's practice, You use his words to make your words and to make your point--one that is quite banal by now. Bob's new music, sounds like nothing else ever made. How many us can say that about our work? Very few.

Ed said...

Ooookay, and so the parade of fawning fans begins. Such a bore.