Various webizens have recently been raising a stink because some of the paintings in Dylan’s new “Asia Series,” now showing at Gagosian Gallery in New York, turn out to have been based on other people’s photos, as reported in Monday’s New York Times. A painting of two old men, called Trade, was closely based on a 1948 image by the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. One called Opium has now been “outed” as a copy of a vintage photo of an opium den by Leon Busy. A Flickr user who goes by the name Okinawa Soba has complained that fully six of Dylan’s sources seem to have been fished from Soba’s photostream, where he had posted images of vintage Asian photographs he owns.
Here is one example. Dylan's painting is on the left, and a photo by Dmitri Kessel is on the right:
While Dylan may be impugned as a plagiariser in the world of painting, at least he has maintained his honor in the music world. According to a 2010 interview with Joni Mitchell, maybe not:
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.
Maybe Joni's comments are sour grapes. After all how can the genius who penned "Girl From The North Country" be a plagiarist? The amazing song starts with this beautiful verse:
If you're traveling in the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
For she was once a true love of mine.
Hmm? I've heard similar lyrics somewhere. Here is the start of "Scarborough Fair," made famous by Simon and Garfunkel:
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
Remember me to one who lives there,
For once she was a true love of mine.
Although the song "Scarborough Fair" was released a few years after "Girl From The North Country," it is a traditional Scottish song that was written several centuries ago. Of course, Paul Simon referenced this fact made sure to credit the song as traditional with his arrangement. Dylan on the other hand, credited it to himself.
You've got a lot of nerve, Bob Dylan.