Joni Mitchell on Bob Dylan: 'He's a plagiarist'

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Post by axordil »

What I find amusing about Mitchell's remarks is the notion that any form of popular music is somehow free of plagiarism. Popular music has been a century-long conversation encompassing exactly two topics, love and loss. The best one can hope for is to phrase a familiar notion a little differently.

The notion of "authenticity" is even more strained. It's a business involving artists, for Pete's sake. Art = artiface. You want pure and authentic, go listen to cicadas.
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Post by yovargas »

There's no doubt of Dylan's enormous influence but I can't really fathom how anyone else could claim the title of most influencial besides The Beatles. At the very least in the realm of music, that seems indisputable.
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

yovargas wrote:There's no doubt of Dylan's enormous influence but I can't really fathom how anyone else could claim the title of most influencial besides The Beatles. At the very least in the realm of music, that seems indisputable.
As I said before, Dylan's influence goes way beyond music. As an example, see River's post.
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Post by Alatar »

I just googled "Most influential artists of all time"

1st hit has The Beatles at 1, Dylan at 2

2nd hit has The Beatles at 1, Dylan at 4

3rd hit is for Albums and had Beatles at 2, Dylan at 8

Following hits are mostly not relevant, apart from one which references the Rolling Stones Magazine top 100 artists, which has Beatles at 1, Dylan at 2

I think its clear that the Beatles are still almost universally recognised as the most influential artists of all time.

Of course, anyone is entitled to their opinion. Particularly when it comes to something as subjective as music.
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Post by yovargas »

Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
yovargas wrote:There's no doubt of Dylan's enormous influence but I can't really fathom how anyone else could claim the title of most influencial besides The Beatles. At the very least in the realm of music, that seems indisputable.
As I said before, Dylan's influence goes way beyond music. As an example, see River's post.
Do you think that influence goes way beyond the protest songs he's most associated with? If so, I don't see how.
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Oh yes. The protest songs are a very, very tiny part of his influence and importance.

But I tire of this, and will let someone else carry the banner, if they wish.
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Post by Holbytla »

Speaking as someone who likes the Beatles, Joni Mitchell and Dylan, but isn't overly crazy about the latter two, I think they were all influential.
I don't see how anyone can really refute that.
Where this all falls down is when you try and quantify it and base it on popular stats and or appeal.

I think you can compare more easily, Mitchell to Dylan that you can either to the Beatles. Lyrically you could make an argument for any of them, but musically the Beatles were head and shoulders above them.

I do think it is fair to compare Dylan to Mitchell, but I don't see any way to suggest that Mitchell was more influential. Maybe in the same ballpark, but that is about it.

Dylan has always come across to me as a bit of a head case (surprising with a musician I know), so it doesn't surprise me that he has made enemies along the way. Still Joni should have taken the high road and just let it go.
They were all plagiarists to some extent.
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Post by Alatar »

Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote: But I tire of this, and will let someone else carry the banner, if they wish.
Thats a little rude V. It sounds very dismissive. I took the time to find links supporting my position. You stated:
I don't think that there is any question that Dylan is head and shoulders above all of those artists, including Lennon/McCartney
I don't think its too much to ask that you support that assertion rather than imply I'm not worth arguing with.
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Post by Padme »

I would put Dylan and Lennon on the same place, Lennon probably would have gone on to do more than Dylan had he not been killed. I am not sure about McCartney though, I don't think he and Lennon were on the same level. That said McCartney is head and shoulders above everyone else, other than Dylan an Lennon, IMHO.

I also think Dylan was very much influenced by Baez and had it not been for her I don't think he would have become what he has.
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Post by vison »

When I was a kid, back in the Early Neolithic, there was a guy named Elvis Presley. I was not, myself, an Elvis fan in those days. But most kids of my generation were Elvis fans. Then he sort of went away, both literally and figuratively, and things were sort of dead and awful in the Young Person's Music World. Persons like Lesley Gore and Bobby Vee and so on were making pop records. Some people liked the Beach Boys.

Folk music was big, when I was, say, 17? Just graduated from high school. Listened to The Kingston Trio and Harry Belafonte and The Limelighters, etc. Not that I was a music fan yet, I wasn't but my then boyfriend, now husband, had a friend who had a coffee house named The Black Spot where they played Jazz, I hate Jazz, but they also had folk musicians. And at The Inquisition, where I heard Bessie Somethingorother and the Gospel Pearls which remains a highlight in my memory. 5 fat black women just goin' for it! Great stuff. I vaguely recall Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez, do I not? From, say 1963? Loved Joan Baez's voice. Think I might even have seen her perform, not sure.

At our house we didn't even have a record player, and the radio was tuned to the station my Mum set it to. We had a TV but we didn't get American Bandstand. I did not experience the "teen years" like most kids due to a lack of technology . . . :D

Then, one day, there was The Beatles. I was a tad too old for the Beatles, to be a REAL Beatles fan, but in my mind they are every bit as important as Elvis, who I now regard as Very Important Indeed and whose recording of "That's all right, Mama", is possibly the greatest single recording ever made anywhere at any time. =:) The Beatles were just like this great huge storm of clean, clear air of fun and happiness and gentle thoughtfulness that whooshed all the stupid Wayne Newton and Lesley Gore claptrap right out of the building.

All of this is to say that if Bob Dylan was vastly important to the world, I missed the whole thing, pretty much. I know an English guy who, with some of his more fanatic friends, threw all their Bob Dylan records onto a fire when they heard he had Gone Electric. They felt betrayed and he says it's still a bad memory. So there you are.

He might write great songs, I won't argue about that since I know, as I said above, nothing whatsoever about music. But his lyrics are not poetry, they lose almost all their beauty and relevance without the music and the singing.
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Post by yovargas »

Though he isn't as musically influencial as a lot of other artists, his sound is very much still out there. Listen to this new artist for one of the most blatantly Dylan-esque artists I've ever heard:

The Tallest Man on Earth - "King of Spain"
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Post by solicitr »

Thanks for that account, vison, relating from a personal perspective a history that I had only read about. (I was too young: my brother was born the day the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan, and I was just out of diapers).

Padme, FWIW I think Lennon+McCartney were better then either since, the sum greater than the parts.
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Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Alatar wrote:I don't think its too much to ask that you support that assertion rather than imply I'm not worth arguing with.
I'm certainly implying no such thing, Al. I didn't want to get drawn into this in the first place, as I implied in my very first post, and yet I ended up getting drawn into an argument with a bunch of people. I have no stomach for engaging in such a discussion with you or anyone else.
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Post by vison »

Since "art" is entirely a subjective matter, I am always leery of anyone being regarded as "most influential" or "best". "Most imitated"? Maybe Chuck Berry? "Most records sold"? Justin Bieber is selling millions and I would pay to be let off hearing it.

Anyone can do art - it is a human activity as much as ordinary speech or movement or handiwork. I have NEVER understood the distinction between handicraft and Art. Some people produce more "pleasing" or "popular" art, supposedly, but in the end it is completely a matter of taste. There are those who admire Jimi Hendrix, whereas I can't turn the radio off fast enough if a Jimi Hendrix song comes on. His music makes my skin crawl.

Without wishing at all to engage in argument, I am genuinely asking anyone who cares to answer WHY Dylan is held to be so important. As I said above, I lived through his folk era, and am still living in his electric era, and Dylan as An Artist means very little to me at all.

For that matter, why is Jimi Hendrix held to be important, or Picasso, or Philip Glass?
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Post by Frelga »

I have very little exposure to the Western pop music. (That's only fair - I doubt any of you have heard the voices that shaped my childhood. :P ) All I can say on the subject that at least I have heard about Bob Dylan. Joni Mitchell I'd have to Google.

Also while I'm being nostalgic, I must say that I've heard far more foreign language music growing up on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain than one hears here.

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Post by Holbytla »

vison wrote:Since "art" is entirely a subjective matter, I am always leery of anyone being regarded as "most influential" or "best". "Most imitated"? Maybe Chuck Berry? "Most records sold"? Justin Bieber is selling millions and I would pay to be let off hearing it.

Anyone can do art - it is a human activity as much as ordinary speech or movement or handiwork. I have NEVER understood the distinction between handicraft and Art. Some people produce more "pleasing" or "popular" art, supposedly, but in the end it is completely a matter of taste. There are those who admire Jimi Hendrix, whereas I can't turn the radio off fast enough if a Jimi Hendrix song comes on. His music makes my skin crawl.

Without wishing at all to engage in argument, I am genuinely asking anyone who cares to answer WHY Dylan is held to be so important. As I said above, I lived through his folk era, and am still living in his electric era, and Dylan as An Artist means very little to me at all.

For that matter, why is Jimi Hendrix held to be important, or Picasso, or Philip Glass?
I don't think I can answer your question, but if you were a half assed afficianado of music, like I am, then you can see or rather hear Dylan's fingerprints all over popular music.

A few examples of the influence he has had on pop music;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS6OhC-4Zyw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGV-NoJ_jgU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsJsjaYm03E

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3cUejOltsA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY_5JOEmFK0

And since they say the most sincerest form of flattery is imitation, then I guess a lot of people flattered Dylan.
I guess maybe he also had a hand in blending folk/pop/rock and had a great crossover.

And while he didn't have the same following of Beatle-maniacs that the Beatles did, he did and does have a hard core devoted following and certainly he heavily influenced pop culture in his time and beyond.
Last edited by Holbytla on Sun May 02, 2010 1:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Holbytla »

These may not belong in this thread, but here is some insight into Mr Dylan via interviews;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlSzWJ0-r24

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXxn_Sq0G1I
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Post by MithLuin »

Thanks for that, yov, though I must say I prefer Moxy Fruvous' King of Spain - more fun ;).

I don't much care about Dylan or the Beatles (or Elvis), but I know their names. I know the Beatles' music better, and admit that some of it is fun, though they'll probably never end up on a list of my favorite bands.

The quote from Joni Mitchell sounds very petty and sour grapes to me. It's like listening to Pullman tear apart Lewis for writing the Narnia books while defending his Lyra books. They both did the same thing. All art borrows from the human experience - if it doesn't, it isn't any good. Borrowing from other artists is normal, as long as you do something interesting with it. Plagiarism is when you take without adding your own flair to it or in some way making it yours. If you want to write anything symbolic, you have to choose symbols that mean something to people - which means you are going to use the same symbols other people have used time and again...because that works.


To answer your question, though, vison, Jimi Hendrix gets credit for being one of the best guitar players ever. As in:

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I mean, not everyone puts him at #1, but he certainly makes all the top 10 lists. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin is really good, too. And Eric Clapton. Whether or not you enjoy what these guys do with those skillz is another matter entirely, but I think recognizing the skill level is a slightly more objective criteria than 'some do, some don't.' I'm not going to say that there aren't people who have never recorded who aren't also amazingly talented....but you can't be known for you skills if you don't go public with them, and professionals do tend to put in more time and effort at honing their craft (like athletes).
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Post by vison »

Holbytla, I'm not an afficianado of music, except I know what I like. Dylan was around most of my life, from my teenage years on, and I never fell into being a Dylan fan. I don't know if he's a plagiarist or not, but Mitchell is right that he's a "fake", only I wouldn't use the word "fake". I would say he is like many other artists, he is a creation of his own making, right from the name he chose to take, to everything he's done since. I don't think he's done anything wrong, he has created a reality that suits him and his public.


Hendrix might be great, but since I can't bear to listen to him, I'll never know. Don't forget, I was around before he was dead, I remember the buzz, and didn't understand it then any better than I understand it now.

I like Clapton and I liked Roy Buchanan and a few lesser known guitarists, Chet Atkins being one. Guitar Steve Miller, too. But I'm NOT a real music fan, don't know much about it, I repeat, I only know what I like.
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Post by Cerin »

I share Voronwë's assessment of Dylan as an artist. I'd say without hesitation that Dylan is the greatest popular artist of the last century. I wouldn't try to argue about influence, though. It's just a subjective opinion, based on what I perceive as the enormity and uniqueness of his gift.
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