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Did Bob Dylan steal his lyrics for Love and Theft?

Discussion in 'Music' started by Lee Scoggins, Jul 8, 2003.

  1. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    There was a really interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal about how the lyrics in this album look to be directly lifted (borrowed heavily?) from a Japanese poet's book "Dreams of the Yakuza".

    Has anyone read this book?

    Do you think Bob is stealing?
     
  2. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    I just found this bit of good news: Masked and Anonymous soundtrack by Dylan (limited edition) will have a Super Audio sampler of seven tracks from the upcoming Dylan SACDs...

    http://www.enjoythemusic.com/news/

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Michael St. Clair

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    Popular music has a long history of 'borrowed' lyrics and melodies.
     
  4. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

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    If true, it confirms that Dylan is literate.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Actually, he stole the lyrics from me. [​IMG]
     
  6. Justin Lane

    Justin Lane Cinematographer

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  7. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    ...now come all ye fools where ever ye roam
    and buy up my records and take them home
    then listen to them and obey faithfully
    because my records they are a'changin'

    Did Bob Dylan steal lyrics from my song MY RECORDS ARE A'CHANGIN'? You be the judge.[​IMG]
     
  8. TomCW

    TomCW Second Unit

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    Wasn't 'You Gotta Serve Somebody' stolen from the Fine Young Cannibals?[​IMG]
    Tom
     
  9. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  10. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Producer

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  11. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  12. Ken_WI

    Ken_WI Stunt Coordinator

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    I always thought the "Love And Theft" lyrics sounded as if he was reading them from a book.

    I like "Time Out Of Mind" a a lot more than L&T.
     
  13. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    I may be alone in this, but in my opinion "Love and Theft" is the only Dylan masterpiece of the last decade. Time out of Mind is a damn good record, the single Things Have Changed an embarrassingly cliched track... but only "Love and Theft" should be considered alongside Dylan's other masterworks IMO.

    I haven't read the article Lee refers to (is there a link?), but I'm hardpressed to see how much of these lyrics could be derived from Japanese poetry. And I hope that article notes that the title is "Love and Theft", very notably "in quotations". Dylan's implicitly referring to Eric Lott's book of the same name, an historical study of minstrelsy in American culture (of the "blackface" variety). But Dylan's not merely alluding to the debt his music owes to that strain of Americana (among many others), even though this aknowledgment is probably the most directly self-reflexive of all his lyrics/titles. Dylan's always seen himself as a minstrel, a donner of personas, a mask within a mask within a mask. He never wore "blackface", but he did flirt with "whiteface" in 75-76. Check out this interview with Lott where he discusses all this: http://www.gadflyonline.com/12-10-01/book-ericlott.html

     
  14. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  15. Vic_T

    Vic_T Stunt Coordinator

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    It is unquestionable that Dylan did use lines from the book (once you compare them, there are WAY too many similarities for it to be even close to coincidental). However, I would not call this plagiarism because he wasn't taking lines from another song; he was quoting a book (different medium). In order to fit the lines in the book to the music, they must be changed, paraphrased, rearranged for syllabic compatibility and rhyme structure. This takes a bit of work (which is why Dylan would be credited as the author of the song). Lines from plays, movies, the bible have all been used in popular songs, including Dylan's. Compositions that use other sources as a reference are perfectly acceptable in the music world (Beethoven used the common "Ode to Joy" melody in his 9th symphony). I do think that he should have cited his reference though, particularly because the quoting of Dr Saga's book was so in depth.
     
  16. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  17. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Complicating matters is a small news item I read in the Los Angeles Times a few days ago that reports Paul McCartney may have inadvertently lifted the melody of "Yesterday" from a middle-of-the-road pop song that charted a few years prior. Talk about upsetting the world order.
     
  18. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    The song in question is Nat King Cole's "Answer Me, My Love" (#6 on the charts in 1954).

    My personal opinion? Not even close. There's a verse that goes "You were mine yesterday... I believed that love was here to stay". That's the only part I would say is even remotely similar to "Yesterday". As for the melody? Nothing suggests McCartney could have found inspiration there.
     
  19. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Well maybe we can agree that Bob Dylan would be a great job candidate for the New York Times. [​IMG]
     
  20. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Actually, no, I don't agree with that at all, Lee. A very inapt analogy.

    While it seems exceedingly unusual for Dylan to quote material from the pure pulp fiction of an obscure yakuza novel, the subject matter is really not so different from the crooks and confidence men that populated the songs of Doc Boggs or Blind Willie McTell... and, after them, Dylan. I'd love to know what about those lines moved Dylan to use them, but I doubt he'll ever speak to that. He won't even comfirm that the title "Love and Theft" is a reference to Lott's book (though it very obviously is).

    I'm trying to understand why there's even a controversy over this, and the best I can come up with is that Dylan is not drawing from purely musical sources, but also literary sources (to the extent that a genre novel can be considered "literary"; and, for Dylan, I'm certain it is). It seems that we don't mind when Dylan quotes the Delta bluesman or his Appalachian "americana" forbears, entirely unacknowledged and without footnotes (but those who know, know), but quoting an almost entirely ignored Japanese crime novel makes him Jayson Blair? Perhaps copyright law would require acknowledgment of his source in this instance should the author wish to make a case of it (I don't know), but to suggest that using a source like this one for lyrical fodder somehow demeans Dylan's artistry is to misunderstand Dylan's artistry in the most fundamental way.

    I linked to an article above regarding Lott's novel "Love and Theft", and its relation to Dylan's record. Here's a link to another piece by Princeton professor and Dylanologist, Sean Wilentz, that should shed some more light on the tangled cultural web that Dylan draws from for his own "white-face minstrelsy": http://www.bobdylan.com/etc/wilentz.html

    I urge you to read the whole thing, but here's a sample:
     

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