Mudcat Café message #2893023 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #129008   Message #2893023
Posted By: jmkelly
23-Apr-10 - 06:24 PM
Thread Name: Joni Mitchell -Dylan is 'a plagiarist'
Subject: RE: Joni Mitchell -Dylan is 'a plagiarist'
So far the "rebuttals" to Mitchell's accusation can be summed up as "Joni Mitchell is ugly, stupid, and crazy." No offense, guys, but that's not a rebuttal.

And no rebuttal is possible. Robert Zimmerman's self-directed transmutation from a middle-class suburban kid to a gritty street-wise folk troubadour modeled on Woody Guthrie is well-known and well-documented. His adoption of other artists' styles, likewise -- he copied some of Woody Guthrie's moves when Guthrie was suffering from Huntington's Disease, with tragicomic results -- on stage Dylan displayed both Woody's intentional moves and his Huntington's twitches, not being in a position to know which was which. And there's the famous story of Dave Van Ronk's version of "House of the Rising Sun," which Dylan copied and recorded, not bothering to ask Van Ronk's permission till the deed was done. Dylan's recording sank out of sight -- but a British guy named Eric Burdon heard it, recorded his own copy with his group the Animals, and got a hit with it. A nice bit of poetic justice, though it did nothing for Dave Van Ronk.

Does all this make Dylan a plagiarist? That last one for sure does, in my book. He stole Van Ronk's intellectual property and tried to make money off it, didn't he?

This is not to say he's without merit as an artist. The power of his songs is unquestionable, and most of it comes from his own stubborn genius. A lot of people wanted a hybrid of folk music and university poetry, and he was uniquely equipped to give it to them; he didn't need to steal anyone's moves or renditions. Too bad he didn't know that.