Bob Dylan, Plagiarist

It’s hard to believe that Dylan would so naively copy other people’s work and pass it off as his own, but that appears to be exactly what he’s done. From ARTINFO:

Time and time again folk rock legend Bob Dylan has blatantly borrowed for his lyrics. Christie’s auction house acknowledged in 2009 that a handwritten Dylan poem that was up for sale really consisted of words from a song by country crooner Hank Snow. Director Martin Scorsese showed in his 2005 documentary, “No Direction Home,” how Dylan stole the line “Go away from my window…” — the immortal opener of his 1964 song “It Ain’t Me, Babe” — from singer John Jacob Niles. Dylan also purloined text from Japanese writer Junichi Saga‘s novel “Confessions of a Yakuza” for his 2001 album “Love and Theft.” And that’s not the only thing Dylan lifted from Asia.

Dylan painting

Bob Dylan's "Opium," (2009) next to a photograph by Léon Busy, taken in Vietnam in 1915. Credits: Left: Gagosian Gallery / Right: © Musée Albert Kahn

For the current exhibition of Dylan’s paintings, “The Asia Series,” which runs from September 20 to October 22 at Gagosian‘s Madison Avenue gallery, the artist painted 18 images — and some of these are copied from well-known photographs, the New York Times reports. Gagosian claims on its Web site that the show is “a visual reflection on his [Dylan’s] travels in Japan, China, Vietnam, and Korea,” and the “people, street scenes, architecture, and landscapes” that he encountered there. But some digging on a discussion page at the Dylan fan site Expecting Rain, which furnished the evidence that prompted the New York Times article, reveals that no less than ten pieces in “The Asia Series” may in fact be a visual reflections of Dylan’s travels through online photo archives rather than of any personal journey…

[continues at ARTINFO]

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Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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64 Comments on "Bob Dylan, Plagiarist"

  1. Drinky McGee | Sep 29, 2011 at 1:06 pm |

    I am not at all surprised that Robert Zimmerman would do this. Even still, though, I’m not sure that “plagiarism” is the word to use.  He painted the work while looking at a photograph instead of a model, but he still painted it.  It’s not unusual for artists to do that.  I would instead just accuse him of simple dishonesty, since he claimed to have encountered these scenes first hand, and he apparently did not.

  2. Drinky McGee | Sep 29, 2011 at 1:06 pm |

    I am not at all surprised that Robert Zimmerman would do this. Even still, though, I’m not sure that “plagiarism” is the word to use.  He painted the work while looking at a photograph instead of a model, but he still painted it.  It’s not unusual for artists to do that.  I would instead just accuse him of simple dishonesty, since he claimed to have encountered these scenes first hand, and he apparently did not.

  3. Drinky McGee | Sep 29, 2011 at 9:06 am |

    I am not at all surprised that Robert Zimmerman would do this. Even still, though, I’m not sure that “plagiarism” is the word to use.  He painted the work while looking at a photograph instead of a model, but he still painted it.  It’s not unusual for artists to do that.  I would instead just accuse him of simple dishonesty, since he claimed to have encountered these scenes first hand, and he apparently did not.

    • plagiarism |ˈplājəˌrizəm|

      noun

      the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

      • Drinky McGee | Sep 29, 2011 at 9:44 am |

        So, you think the guy who took the photograph was the first person who ever asked an Asian woman to recline in a room full of crap while he took her picture?  Do you think he might have seen something similar before?  Your understanding of art seems very limited.

        • dumbsaint | Sep 29, 2011 at 9:56 am |

          Seems your understanding of art could use some work. The photo of the asian woman is someone else’s artwork, not an arbitrary photograph of a woman reclining. Photography is basically the art of composition and Dylan has copied that verbatim.

          He should have acknowledged the reference at the very least.

          • Drinky McGee | Sep 29, 2011 at 12:37 pm |

            Yes, as I said in my first post, he’s guilty of lying. But I don’t expect much more from a guy who created his entire persona by lifting bits from folks like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. The guy created a fake bio for himself back in the day, for crying out loud.

            This is a very murky area. Appropriation of the images of others is absolutely standard.  You just have to know how to do it without looking like an ass.

          • Liam_McGonagle | Sep 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm |

            I agree.  Although I didn’t get your point until my second reading.

            I kind of glossed over the fact that Dylan/Zimmermann specifically claimed that the show is a “reflection of his travels” in Asia.  Some people might accept the hypothetical argument that his reflections on that travel were majorly informed by that European’s 1915 photocomposition, but that doesn’t do much credit to the level of his thoughtfulness or diligence in citing his sources.

            Maybe the overall exhibition is more nuanced than this, but this particular example does seem kind of an anachronistic, obvlivious, hackneyed, slap-dash sort of affair given the events of this year and their profound implications for the future of Japan and humanity in general.

            Dylan was ab ovo a master at appropriating the aesthetic of others.  All artists do that, really.  But usually they go to more effort to put their unique stamp on it than to crap out a badly watercoloured tracing.  At the very least they’ll throw in some b*llshit accompanying text to tart up their interpretation of the original to demonstrate their “special insight” into the original artist’s rare gifts.

            This was really disappointing.  It’s like he never considered that his audience could Google this stuff as easily as his dogsbody did before presenting it to him. 

            Dylan never claimed to be anything other than a thief–hence the “Jesse James” obsessions.  But the image this calls to mind is a decrepit, senile old man struggling with the instructions to set the time on a clock radio, more than an agile Robin Hood.

      •  Yeah it is that simple. SO Bob Dylan is a plagiarist. Or you and most of these people don’t know anything about folk/traditional music always being about taking other people’s shit and doing your own thing with it.
        It’s been around longer than corporations and copyright laws.
        Worse is this “Bob Dylan is a plagiarist” shit has been around since the fucking 1960s. Boring. And here he is still stealing and still writing his own shit and still playing and not giving a damn about what people say much less the media

  4. DeepCough | Sep 29, 2011 at 1:38 pm |

    Hey, there’s nothing original under the sun. Everyone knows that Family Guy is heavily plagiarized from The Simpsons, but since both are owned by 20th Century Fox, no one cares.

  5. DeepCough | Sep 29, 2011 at 9:38 am |

    Hey, there’s nothing original under the sun. Everyone knows that Family Guy is heavily plagiarized from The Simpsons, but since both are owned by 20th Century Fox, no one cares.

  6. plagiarism |ˈplājəˌrizəm|

    noun

    the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

  7. Drinky McGee | Sep 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |

    So, you think the guy who took the photograph was the first person who ever asked an Asian woman to recline in a room full of crap while he took her picture?  Do you think he might have seen something similar before?  Your understanding of art seems very limited.

  8. Anonymous | Sep 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm |

    Seems your understanding of art could use some work. The photo of the asian woman is someone else’s artwork, not an arbitrary photograph of a woman reclining. Photography is basically the art of composition and Dylan has copied that verbatim.

    He should have acknowledged the reference at the very least.

  9. Anonymous | Sep 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm |

    Seems your understanding of art could use some work. The photo of the asian woman is someone else’s artwork, not an arbitrary photograph of a woman reclining. Photography is basically the art of composition and Dylan has copied that verbatim.

    He should have acknowledged the reference at the very least.

  10. Anonymous | Sep 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm |

    Seems your understanding of art could use some work. The photo of the asian woman is someone else’s artwork, not an arbitrary photograph of a woman reclining. Photography is basically the art of composition and Dylan has copied that verbatim.

    He should have acknowledged the reference at the very least.

  11. Anonymous | Sep 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm |

    Seems your understanding of art could use some work. The photo of the asian woman is someone else’s artwork, not an arbitrary photograph of a woman reclining. Photography is basically the art of composition and Dylan has copied that verbatim.

    He should have acknowledged the reference at the very least.

  12. JUDAS

  13. JUDAS

  14. JUDAS

  15. JUDAS

  16. JUDAS

  17. So, the normal process of learning to paint is to copy other people’s work.  You learn composition and lighting techniques.  The problem is, with famous people, these “learning” works become valuable themselves.  Additionally, celebrities have rather large egos and live in a sort-of fantasy world they create themselves.  The general thirst by the majority of us for authenticity really doesn’t mix well with the life-state of celebrity.  I’m not making excuses for Dylan here, just trying to provide some insight into how this plagarism could occur.

  18. So, the normal process of learning to paint is to copy other people’s work.  You learn composition and lighting techniques.  The problem is, with famous people, these “learning” works become valuable themselves.  Additionally, celebrities have rather large egos and live in a sort-of fantasy world they create themselves.  The general thirst by the majority of us for authenticity really doesn’t mix well with the life-state of celebrity.  I’m not making excuses for Dylan here, just trying to provide some insight into how this plagarism could occur.

  19. So, the normal process of learning to paint is to copy other people’s work.  You learn composition and lighting techniques.  The problem is, with famous people, these “learning” works become valuable themselves.  Additionally, celebrities have rather large egos and live in a sort-of fantasy world they create themselves.  The general thirst by the majority of us for authenticity really doesn’t mix well with the life-state of celebrity.  I’m not making excuses for Dylan here, just trying to provide some insight into how this plagarism could occur.

  20. i saw the exhibition last weekend and there was just no way he could have physically “experienced” the scenes in his paintings because they are super old school (we are talking about 1800’s, early 1900’s) so this really comes as no surprise.

  21. i saw the exhibition last weekend and there was just no way he could have physically “experienced” the scenes in his paintings because they are super old school (we are talking about 1800’s, early 1900’s) so this really comes as no surprise.

  22. Anonymous | Sep 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |

    It’s dishonest and deceitful whichever way you look at it. Also it’s a really, really crap painting.

  23. cakey pig | Sep 29, 2011 at 11:44 am |

    It’s dishonest and deceitful whichever way you look at it. Also it’s a really, really crap painting.

  24. Drinky McGee | Sep 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm |

    Yes, as I said in my first post, he’s guilty of lying. But I don’t expect much more from a guy who created his entire persona by lifting bits from folks like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. The guy created a fake bio for himself back in the day, for crying out loud.

    This is a very murky area. Appropriation of the images of others is absolutely standard.  You just have to know how to do it without looking like an ass.

  25. Mamagriff50 | Sep 29, 2011 at 6:14 pm |

    Maybe Bob Dylan isn’t real…but a stolen Bob Dylan persona. Would the real Bob Dylan please stand up.   lol

  26. Mamagriff50 | Sep 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm |

    Maybe Bob Dylan isn’t real…but a stolen Bob Dylan persona. Would the real Bob Dylan please stand up.   lol

  27. emperorreagan | Sep 29, 2011 at 6:59 pm |

    I went through a Bob Dylan phase in college, which lasted from the time it took me to walk to the record store, buy the cd, pop it in my portable cd player, and listen to half of it on the walk back.

    My Pink Floyd and Doors phases lasted slightly longer.  Then I stopped buying things on the recommendation of people and stuck to punk rock.

  28. emperorreagan | Sep 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm |

    I went through a Bob Dylan phase in college, which lasted from the time it took me to walk to the record store, buy the cd, pop it in my portable cd player, and listen to half of it on the walk back.

    My Pink Floyd and Doors phases lasted slightly longer.  Then I stopped buying things on the recommendation of people and stuck to punk rock.

  29. Anonymous | Sep 29, 2011 at 7:43 pm |

    I agree.  Although I didn’t get your point until my second reading.

    I kind of glossed over the fact that Dylan/Zimmermann specifically claimed that the show is a “reflection of his travels” in Asia.  Some people might accept the hypothetical argument that his reflections on that travel were majorly informed by that European’s 1915 photocomposition, but that doesn’t do much credit to the level of his thoughtfulness or diligence in citing his sources.

    Maybe the overall exhibition is more nuanced than this, but this particular example does seem kind of an anachronistic, obvlivious, hackneyed, slap-dash sort of affair given the events of this year and their profound implications for the future of Japan and humanity in general.

    Dylan was ab ovo a master at appropriating the aesthetic of others.  All artists do that, really.  But usually they go to more effort to put their unique stamp on it than to crap out a badly watercoloured tracing.  At the very least they’ll throw in some b*llshit accompanying text to tart up their interpretation of the original to demonstrate their “special insight” into the original artist’s rare gifts.

    This was really disappointing.  It’s like he never considered that his audience could Google this stuff as easily as his dogsbody did before presenting it to him. 

    Dylan never claimed to be anything other than a thief–hence the “Jesse James” obsessions.  But the image this calls to mind is a decrepit, senile old man struggling with the instructions to set the time on a clock radio, more than an agile Robin Hood.

  30. Seriously, has anybody ever heard “his” music? As with most folk and pop and rock music, you can hardly call what he does “writing” or creating. Why would we expect any different from his visual work.

  31. Seriously, has anybody ever heard “his” music? As with most folk and pop and rock music, you can hardly call what he does “writing” or creating. Why would we expect any different from his visual work.

  32. successful people do the bad habits that they tell others not to do, as it is their source to success it gets rid of competition for those gullible enough to believe they’re sincere

  33. successful people do the bad habits that they tell others not to do, as it is their source to success it gets rid of competition for those gullible enough to believe they’re sincere

  34. successful people do the bad habits that they tell others not to do, as it is their source to success it gets rid of competition for those gullible enough to believe they’re sincere

  35. Anonymous | Sep 30, 2011 at 12:18 am |

    Bob Dylan is way the fuck over rated, I’ve thought so ever since I became musically inclined in high school. 

  36. Anonymous | Sep 30, 2011 at 12:18 am |

    Bob Dylan is way the fuck over rated, I’ve thought so ever since I became musically inclined in high school. 

  37. Anarchy Pony | Sep 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm |

    Bob Dylan is way the fuck over rated, I’ve thought so ever since I became musically inclined in high school. 

    • How could he not be or anybody famous for making music. There are thousands of brilliant writers and players nobody ever hears of or ever will. 

  38. Moreviolenceplz | Sep 30, 2011 at 2:37 am |

    i would still consider it to be plagiarism, he did paint the pictures, but the composition is not his own.  it is the literary equivalent, of taking another person’s short story and copying it word for word, but calling it your own because it’s in your handwriting.

  39. Moreviolenceplz | Sep 29, 2011 at 10:37 pm |

    i would still consider it to be plagiarism, he did paint the pictures, but the composition is not his own.  it is the literary equivalent, of taking another person’s short story and copying it word for word, but calling it your own because it’s in your handwriting.

  40. Bob Dylan doesn’t give a crap how anybody judges him. And because he doesn’t play that game of “I’m a legend so every thing I do is of an important scale and has a meaning”, he just does and says whatever knowing it will be praised for no reason, or it will be frowned upon, or it will sell for millions, or whatever. To many he’s a prophet of some sort, but creating and following a prophet is a very weak and dumb attitude.
    People expect him, and you, and me, to give a shit about stuff that really doesn’t matter.

    Besides how much is that really “stealing” ? Is it such an amazing and unique photo ? He obviously used it as a model for dimensions and colors, not to steal anything of artistic value. Such a worthless painting. *sigh* probably will sell for thousands.

  41. Bob Dylan doesn’t give a crap how anybody judges him. And because he doesn’t play that game of “I’m a legend so every thing I do is of an important scale and has a meaning”, he just does and says whatever knowing it will be praised for no reason, or it will be frowned upon, or it will sell for millions, or whatever. To many he’s a prophet of some sort, but creating and following a prophet is a very weak and dumb attitude.
    People expect him, and you, and me, to give a shit about stuff that really doesn’t matter.

    Besides how much is that really “stealing” ? Is it such an amazing and unique photo ? He obviously used it as a model for dimensions and colors, not to steal anything of artistic value. Such a worthless painting. *sigh* probably will sell for thousands.

  42. ZombieSlapper | Oct 1, 2011 at 5:11 am |

    “Then I stopped buying things on the recommendation of people and stuck to punk rock”

    That’s unfortunate.

  43. Anonymous | Oct 2, 2011 at 3:14 am |

     Yeah it is that simple. SO Bob Dylan is a plagiarist. Or you and most of these people don’t know anything about folk/traditional music always being about taking other people’s shit and doing your own thing with it.
    It’s been around longer than corporations and copyright laws.
    Worse is this “Bob Dylan is a plagiarist” shit has been around since the fucking 1960s. Boring. And here he is still stealing and still writing his own shit and still playing and not giving a damn about what people say much less the media

  44. Anonymous | Oct 2, 2011 at 3:16 am |

    wow that’s so fucking cool.

  45. Anonymous | Oct 2, 2011 at 3:16 am |

    wow that’s so fucking cool.

  46. Anonymous | Oct 2, 2011 at 3:17 am |

    How could he not be or anybody famous for making music. There are thousands of brilliant writers and players nobody ever hears of or ever will. 

  47. justagirl | Oct 3, 2011 at 1:53 pm |

    so, yesterday this dude is trying to lie to my boss and boss says to him, “you sound like a shit salesman with a mouth full of samples”.  and i …LmAo.  then i thought, did he just make that up?  he probably did, but, the point is it doesn’t matter if he made it up.  the important thing is that it was awesome and the delivery was brilliant.  now you can use it and pass it off as your own.  

  48. justagirl | Oct 3, 2011 at 9:53 am |

    so, yesterday this dude is trying to lie to my boss and boss says to him, “you sound like a shit salesman with a mouth full of samples”.  and i …LmAo.  then i thought, did he just make that up?  he probably did, but, the point is it doesn’t matter if he made it up.  the important thing is that it was awesome and the delivery was brilliant.  now you can use it and pass it off as your own.  

  49. the.most.over.rated.zionist.ever

  50. the.most.over.rated.zionist.ever

  51. Wayne Kerr | Oct 14, 2011 at 8:37 am |

    “Good artists copy, great artists steal” TS Eliot…er, or is that ‘borrow’? Hang on, is it ‘great poets’? Wait, “immature poets imitate; mature poets steal”…that’s it…I think. Um, surely it wasn’t Picasso who said this, was it? Steve Jobs?? Help, I’m all discombobulated…hee hee, get it? DiscomBOBulated! I win…meh

  52. Wayne Kerr | Oct 14, 2011 at 8:37 am |

    “Good artists copy, great artists steal” TS Eliot…er, or is that ‘borrow’? Hang on, is it ‘great poets’? Wait, “immature poets imitate; mature poets steal”…that’s it…I think. Um, surely it wasn’t Picasso who said this, was it? Steve Jobs?? Help, I’m all discombobulated…hee hee, get it? DiscomBOBulated! I win…meh

  53. Wayne Kerr | Oct 14, 2011 at 4:37 am |

    “Good artists copy, great artists steal” TS Eliot…er, or is that ‘borrow’? Hang on, is it ‘great poets’? Wait, “immature poets imitate; mature poets steal”…that’s it…I think. Um, surely it wasn’t Picasso who said this, was it? Steve Jobs?? Help, I’m all discombobulated…hee hee, get it? DiscomBOBulated! I win…meh

  54. Cause I’m a poet
    Don’t ya know it
    And the wind, you can blow it
    Cause I’m Mr. Dylan, the king
    And I’m free as a bird on the wing

    Roam from town to town
    Guess I get people down
    But I don’t care too much about that
    Cause my gut and my wallet are fat

    Make a whole lotta dough
    But I deserve it though
    I’ve got soul and a good heart of gold
    So I’ll sing about war in the cold
     
    -Syd Barrett

  55. Cause I’m a poet
    Don’t ya know it
    And the wind, you can blow it
    Cause I’m Mr. Dylan, the king
    And I’m free as a bird on the wing

    Roam from town to town
    Guess I get people down
    But I don’t care too much about that
    Cause my gut and my wallet are fat

    Make a whole lotta dough
    But I deserve it though
    I’ve got soul and a good heart of gold
    So I’ll sing about war in the cold
     
    -Syd Barrett

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