“Wussies and pussies.” That’s the term Bob Dylan used to describe his critics, specifically those who accused the veteran singer-songwriter of plagiarizing some of his song lyrics. In a new interview with Rolling Stone magazine, the 71-year-old was asked what he thought of the controversy surrounding his writing sharing similarities to the works of Japanese author Junichi Saga and poet Henry Timrod.
Dylan – who has just released his 35th studio album to near universal critical acclaim – said, “Oh, yeah, in folk and jazz, quotation is a rich and enriching tradition…That certainly is true. It's true for everybody, but me. There are different rules for me. And as far as Henry Timrod is concerned, have you even heard of him? Who's been reading him lately?” Timrod – who died in 1867 – was dubbed the poet laureate of the Confederacy though failed to find any real commercial success. Referring to the New York Times’ article about the similarities of his and poet’s work, Dylan said, “Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. It's an old thing - it's part of the tradition. It goes way back.” In 2003, the Wall Street Journal noted that lyrics from Dylan’s 2001 record ‘Love and Theft’ included phrases similar to those found in the 1995 biography of a Japanese mobster. A line from the book read, “I'm not as cool or forgiving as I might have sounded,” while Dylan wrote and sang, “I'm not quite as cool or forgiving as I sound.” On this specific example, the singer-songwriter explained, “I'm working within my art form. It's that simple. I work within the rules and limitations of it. There are authoritarian figures that can explain that kind of art form better to you than I can. It's called songwriting.” Of course, accusations of plagiarism in the music world are nothing new, nor are they for Dylan, who was the target of an interview by Joni Mitchell in 2010. She told the Los Angeles Times, “Bob [Dylan] 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.”
Nevertheless, the 71-year-old Dylan remains on good form and has released three albums in as many years. Uncut magazine describes his latest – Tempest - as, “the most far-reaching, provocative and transfixing album of Dylan's later career.”