Joni Mitchell has always bugged me as some sort of self-important artist. I remember seeing her in Rochester, maybe with Bob Dylan, and she was getting pissed off that the crowd (the nerve!) was still finding their seats when she was performing. Last week she came out and called Bob Dylan a phony in an interview with the L.A. Times:
LA Times: As well, you've had experience becoming a character outside yourself [Mitchell caused controversy when she appeared as an African American male on the cover of her 1977 album, "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter"].The folk scene you came out of had fun creating personas. You were born Roberta Joan Anderson, and someone named Bobby Zimmerman became Bob Dylan.
Joni Mitchell: Bob is not authentic at all. He's a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I.
So everything about Joni is truly original and Bob (it's not even his real last name!) Dylan is a phony. Interesting. This article questions what plagiarism actually is. Dylan, with no apologies to anyone, lifted the melody for "Blowing In The Wind" in 1962 from the old folk song "No More Auction Block," a song that had long passed into the public domain. Dylan copped Woody Guthrie's persona for years before he moved to Greenwich Village from Minnesota. The genius of Dylan, the turns of phrases that he collected, was that he made much of the stuff his own. There is a snippet of vocal on the Bob Dylan Bootleg album where he is a dead ringer for Woody, not just in tone, but the remark and the words themselves. The folk scene of the 1960's, not that I am any sort of expert, was artists doing old, standard folk songs. It's what folk songs are. You might as well bust Joseph Campbell for writing about mythology or George Lucas for writing Star Wars.
If you've read my blog beyond this post you will see lots of stuff lifted from somewhere or someone else. "Are You There, Vodka?" The Pop Culture thing I like to do towards the end of the week is not an original idea. What is an original idea? Is Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger not truly his? He didn't write all those songs, but look what he turned them into: something truly unique with his signature on it. Sometimes I think that Neil Young could be the only true original artist alive today (with, I suppose, apologies to her Heiness Joni Mitchell - who's real name is Roberta Joan Anderson - but I guess that's okay). He's the only guy weird enough to come up with the stuff he comes up with. So Joni (if that is your real name): gfy!