Early one mornin’ the sun was shinin’,
I was layin’ in bed
Wond’rin’ if she’d changed at all
If her hair was still red.
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama’s homemade dress
Papa’s bankbook wasn’t big enough.
And I was standin’ on the side of the road
Rain fallin’ on my shoes
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues gettin’ through,
Tangled up in blue.
Aficionados of Bob Dylan’s work will immediately recognise the above. It’s from the opening song on his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks. Tangled Up in Blue, according to some schools of thought, was written by Dylan after an intense few days listening to the Joni Mitchell album ‘Blue’.
Indeed if you go here, one writer claims that Dylan himself imparted the following, “People get that way about Joni Mitchell songs. Bob Dylan once told me that he’d written “Tangled up in Blue,” the opening song of the much-celebrated Blood on the Tracks, after spending a weekend immersed in JM’s Blue (although I think he may have been talking about the whole album, not just the song).”
I was reading an unrelated article in the Independent this morning and on the ‘other stories that may interest you’ tab I noticed a headline in which Joni Mitchell denounced Dylan as a ‘plagiarist’ and a ‘fake’. Scanning the article at first I thought it was a few days out of date but actually it was from April 2010. Old news that I had missed.
The Indy article led me in turn to this one
There’s complimentary stuff:
“I was what was known as a ‘late Dylan fan.’ At one time I was almost anti-Dylan, and I made a lot of enemies… I thought he was putting me on, I couldn’t accept him. The thing was, I shared no experience with Dylan at the time, I thought a lot of his stuff was ambiguous, and not written honestly. It’s like I always thought Shakespeare was real wordy and weird, right until I went to Stratford and saw a man who recited Shakespeare like it was really 20th century. It lost all of that super-drama stuff that really turned me off, and it flowed, and I understood it. So it’s the same thing with Dylan; now every time I listen to him, the things I thought were just words for words’ sake make sense to me.” – Mitchell in Brian Hinton’s Both Sides Now
However, after they performed together at the 1994 UNESCO Project in Japan, Mitchell had this to say about the experience:
“On the third night they stuck Bob at the mic with me and that’s the one that went out on tape. And if you look closely at it, you can see the little brat, he’s up in my face — and he never brushes his teeth, so his breath was like… right in my face — and he’s mouthing the words at me like a prompter, and he’s pushing me off the mic. lt’s like he’s basically dipping my pigtail in ink.” – Barney Hoskyn’s 1994 interview with Mitchell
“Now for the plagiarism accusation — from what we can tell, Dylan has been accused of borrowing liberally from Civil War poet Henry Timrod on his 2006 album Modern Times. When the Independent compared lyrics from Modern Times with the work of Timrod, and found several instances where the words or the sentiment are similar. A few years earlier, Dylan faced similar allegations when he “borrowed” several lines from a Japanese writer, without accreditation, on the rather ironically-titled Love and Theft.”
“Since we’ve compiled some evidence, we can’t help but be on Team Bob. It sounds to us like Mitchell is bitter and jealous of his esteem which is weird since many consider Mitchell to be the female Dylan. In addition to her jabs at Dylan, she’s also made incendiary comments about Joan Baez, and in the same article that called out Dylan yesterday, describes Janis Joplin and Grace Slick as drunken whores. Then she compared Madonna to Nero. We just can’t defend her after reading that. Plus, for someone with such an axe to grind, she sure loves covering Bobby.”