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Old 03-29-2017   #31
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Re: Bob Dylan

My counter-argument.

Not one of his very best but a decent example.



DEMOCRACY

Leonard Cohen






It's coming through a hole in the air
From those nights in Tiananmen Square
It's coming from the feel
That it ain't exactly real
Or it's real, but it ain't exactly there
From the wars against disorder
From the sirens night and day
From the fires of the homeless
From the ashes of the gay
Democracy is coming to the u.s.a

It's coming through a crack in the wall
On a visionary flood of alcohol
From the staggering account
Of the Sermon on the Mount
Which I don't pretend to understand at all
It's coming from the silence
On the dock of the bay
From the brave, the bold, the battered
Heart of Chevrolet
Democracy is coming to the u.s.a...

I




If that doesn't work as a poem, I don't know what a poem is.

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Old 03-29-2017   #32
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Re: Bob Dylan

If Cohen had written "Democracy" as a poem instead of as a song (which he obviously was capable of doing), he would have surely changed some lines. For instance, the lines

It's coming from the feel
That it ain't exactly real
Or it's real, but it ain't exactly there


sound fine in the song (especially in Cohen's unforgettable delivery), but they don't work nearly as well in print, because they weren't primarily meant to be read (or even spoken by someone reading them aloud); they were meant to be heard as words to a song. And I could go through the rest of the lyrics, too, and pick other bits that Cohen would surely have changed if he were writing a poem to be read rather than a song to be listened to. But I don't want to try to rewrite Cohen's song lyrics as a poem, and I hope you get my point.

I've found that when I read lyrics to a song I know well, I can hear the song in my mind as I'm reading, which makes the printed lyrics seem more... sufficient (if that's the right word), more fully formed in themselves, than they would seem if my reading weren't accompanied by my memory of the song. If you hadn't heard the song "Democracy," and didn't even know it was a song, would you think those lines were a poem (meant either to be read or spoken), or would you think those lines were lyrics meant to be sung? They look to me like lyrics meant to be sung. (This is not in any way a denigration of them.)
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Old 03-29-2017   #33
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Re: Bob Dylan

G., I think it's a case of you're right from your side and...lol.

Have you read Cohen's early poems, stuff like "Flowers for Hitler"? Written before he began to write songs. The poems are loose and angular. A famous rock critic--damn if I can remember which one--argued that the discipline of song writing had made his work tighter, more focused. I certainly agree. I think his lyrics are far better as genuine poetry than his work on the printed page.

We should maybe remember that poetry in the beginning was probably an oral art. You're certainly right; Cohen, like Dylan, was a master of delivery.

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Old 03-30-2017   #34
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Re: Bob Dylan

I dipped into Cohen's poetry once in a bookstore, but don't really remember it.

I don't think it's a matter of disciplined vs. undisciplined or high quality vs. low quality; it's a matter of different artistic media. Songs with words could be considered "multimedia." Here's an analogy. Someone who is brilliant at doing painting for theatrical set-design is like a lyricist who is brilliant at writing words for songs. Perhaps this painter who works in set-design is much better at painting than many fine-art easel daubers. Perhaps he himself even got better at painting when he moved from easel painting to painting for sets. And some connoisseurs might even find it worthwhile to admire these theatrical backdrop paintings apart from the stage-setting and the play they were meant for; i.e., to admire them as if they were stand-alone paintings. Still, there are crucial medium-specific differences in what the set-designer and the easel-painter are doing. The set designer should win an award for set design, not fine-art painting. The songwriter should win an award for songwriting, not poetry.

If a contemporary poet had managed to revive sung poetry (which I think would be a somewhat different thing from songs with words) as a viable literary art form, then perhaps such a poet-singer should be considered for a literary award. But Dylan has worked primarily in certain traditions and forms of popular song (as the Academy itself noted). Context matters.

Now the rainman gave me two cures
Then he said, "Jump right in"
The one was Texas medicine
The other was just railroad gin
And like a fool I mixed them
And it strangled up my mind
And now, people just get uglier
And I have no sense of time

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Old 04-07-2017   #35
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Re: Bob Dylan

Hey, at least the guy appreciates Cohen. Great line.

Apparently, the media devours its own.

What the hell was Brian Williams thinking? | New York Post
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Old 06-14-2017   #36
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Re: Bob Dylan

Some say you steal the Good Stuff...wherever you may find it.

Plagiarism is a regrettable habit. Still many first-rate writers have been guilty of it, at least to some extent, including Willy the Shake.
But in Dylan's case, is this plagiarism? Or just a lapse in taste? Gveranon, weigh in on this.

Dylan was referring to Moby Dick as far back as the Bringing It All Back Home album (1965).

In any case, everyone loves Moby Dick. And why not? It's America's greatest novel, after The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

Did Bob Dylan plagiarize his Nobel lecture from SparkNotes? | New York Post

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Old 06-14-2017   #37
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Re: Bob Dylan

Are we sure Dylan didn't author the spark notes?
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Old 06-14-2017   #38
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Re: Bob Dylan

Quote Originally Posted by Druidic View Post
But in Dylan's case, is this plagiarism? Or just a lapse in taste? Gveranon, weigh in on this.
Oh, man, do I have to?

Okay. I would defend Dylan's "plagiarism" in his songs. As the article notes, borrowing is just part of folk and blues traditions. The notion of "plagiarism" doesn't really apply in those traditions. I would take it even further and maintain that a songwriter in those traditions isn't doing it right if he or she never borrows. (Imagine this scandal: So-and-so claims to be a folksinger and a bluesman but investigation reveals he has never lifted anything from any other song. What a phony!)

I do wish other artists hadn't been sued -- successfully -- for borrowing from Dylan himself. Hootie and the Blowfish's "Only Wanna Be with You," Rod Stewart's "Forever Young." Hootie and the Blowfish even made it clear in their lyrics that they were quoting Dylan! I don't know if those lawsuits were Dylan's doing or his record company's, but it does seem hypocritical.

It's hard to defend the borrowing in the Nobel Prize lecture and in his memoir, Chronicles. It's unsurprising, I suppose, that his compositional methods are similar for anything he writes, but still...

I do find it striking, though, that whether in songs or in a lecture or in his memoir, the plagiarized material always ends up sounding like nobody else but him. Unlike most plagiarists, he borrows quite artfully and seamlessly to his own ends. I think this redeems the plagiarism aesthetically, if not ethically or legally.

I liked the Nobel lecture. Some people seemed not to understand what he was doing with the long "book report" summaries. Clearly he was showing how some literary works influenced his songwriting (very appropriate for the Nobel occasion). Since he presented the lecture as a spoken-word performance with musical accompaniment, he was able to sometimes almost chant the words in a phrasing that will be familiar to listeners to his songs. This helps us to see how the language and mythic atmosphere of, especially, Moby Dick influenced his songs. I was reminded of his discussion in Chronicles of the Brecht-Weill song "Pirate Jenny," which had a large impact on him as a young songwriter and which inspired his own song "When the Ship Comes In."

I can't resist quoting this from the end of Dylan's speech: "But songs are unlike literature. They're meant to be sung, not read.​" This makes me think that, uh, Dylan might agree with the arguments I made upthread!
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Old 06-14-2017   #39
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Re: Bob Dylan

We needed answers and we needed them fast.
Thanks, gveranon.
The Crisis has been averted. For now.
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Old 06-15-2017   #40
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Re: Bob Dylan

I feel as though the plagiarism question has been going on a long time with Dylan's body of work, I distinctly remember articles in various magazines questioning his songwriting muses after the release of Modern Times, an album that seemed to have an abundance of original integrity present. To me, pop music has always referenced other media including other songs. It would take two hands to count how many songs I have heard with the lyric "between the devil and the deep blue sea" . Because Dylan's references may not seem overt should we think of them as sneaky? I believe that they are probably to him very overt as he is dealing with a different pool of references? I realize this latest accusation has nothing to do with songwriting as it comes from an academic setting, but I can't help thinking this is just the latest attempt to easily explain genius and that people will always question Dylan as long as he is alive, perhaps even after that.
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