Thursday, March 1, 2007

Love And Theft

This is NOT breaking news. There's been a lot of hub bub about this over the last several years. The title of this record was taken from a book about black-face mintrelsy and the white American working class of the 19th century. There was the revelation that Dylan lifted lyrical passages from a Japanese novel about a gangster's dying confession. Then, the Dylan sleuths uncovered a variety of references to everything from F. Scott Fitzgerald to the musical appropriations illustrated below. I prefer appropriation, the post-modern term for borrowing, although some will claim it is outright theft. Maybe it is. Or maybe it's homage, which Dylan has paid to everyone from Woody Guthrie to Elvis over the course of his career. He's an artist after all, and to deny that he is partially the sum of everything that he has consumed, is to miss the point. When the Beach Boys released "Surfin' USA," they over-zealously gave Chuck Berry a co-writing credit. It does bear a thematic resemblance to "Sweet Little Sixteen," but so does half of the catalog of numerous rock 'n roll bands. Chuck Berry learned it for T-Bone Walker and Louis Jordan, and they learned it from those before them, and so on.

Listen: GONE Gene Austin mp3

Listen: GONE Bob Dylan mp3

Listen: GONE Big Joe Turner mp3

Listen GONE Bob Dylan mp3

Buy at Amazon : Gene Austin, Big Joe Turner, Bob Dylan


Anonymous said...

You mean "Surfin' USA," and it has one of the most clever "appropriations," substituting "An ocean," for "A notion," in the opening line.

Chuck missed enough paydays to get off the hook for that one, I think.

Big Joe Turner -- it's been awhile. What a deep and beautiful howl!



tb said...

jay, i stand corrected. all this bloated pontificating, and i was bound to put my foot in my mouth sooner or later. i hear-by appoint you honorary fact-checker and chair of the boogie woogie flu appropriations committee.

Dr. C. said...

The Beach Boys gave writing credit to Chuck Berry for Surfin' USA only after he sued. I don't know if attributions have changed since but at the time it was complete credit! No mention of B. Wilson or Love or anyone else. Hard to fathom that Chuck Berry believes lyrics don't count when it comes to songwriting.

tb said...

thanks dr. c.
again, i stand corrected. i wasn't aware of the lawsuit, i thought maybe murray was just trying to teach the boys a lesson.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know about fact checker, since I seem to have dreamed that "an ocean" "a notion" thing. That has been fixed in my mind for the longest time... who know why?

Anyway, I think CB's basis for credit is a good one, "look and feel" based. The clincher is the chorus, which lists the locales from major cities in CB to the prime beaches from the BB. Deft.

Great regional folk music!


Reverend Frost said...

AMAZING blog, thank you!

tb said...

Thanks Rev! Keep spreading the "flu" and I shall spread the good word.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful look to your blog here -- gotlinked over via!... And then there's "Thunder on the Mountain" (from Dylan's "Modern Times") "first" being Chuck Berry's "Johnny B Goode!"

And personally I think "Spirit on the Water" is "Sunny Side of the Street" (via the Monty Python version "Look on the Bright Side!!") -- whaddya' think?!
Jeanne C -- 3-22-07

Anonymous said...

Spirit On The Water sounds like Red Sails In The Sunset to me.

Ted Barron said...

"Red Sails in the Sunset"... BINGO!

The Chuck Berry/ "Thunder on the Mountain"thing hadn't occurred to me, maybe because it's so obvious. I think more "Let it Rock" than "Johnny be Good," Although that shuffling 12 bar rock thing is ubiquitous, that it's practically public domain at this point.

Thanks for stopping by and your comments.

Chano said...

While Dylan may have taken Summer Days from the song by Turner, I really doubt if Dylan's is the only similar sounding song, I mean, I feel like I've heard it many times before and I don't even listen to Turner, though I think I should, what a great voice. Dylan risks being derivative but then again, he always has. Somehow though, he puts a Dylan "stamp" on it and it's great listening. "Love and Theft"--what a terrific title. I guess we steal what we love when it comes to music.

Stan Denski said...

Since its release, I've come to believe that Love & Theft is Dylan's best record - better even than the remarkable 65-66 run. I say this because it really does sound like a near-perfect history of the American popular music of the 20th Century. In order for that to be - in the same way that Freewheelin' also called upon the ghosts of everything that came before it - some "appropriation" is both necessary and fine by me. I've just found your blog and added a link to it in my own ( I hope you'll come by for a look.

Ted Barron said...

Love and Theft is definitely in my top 5 favorite Dylan records. It changes all the time, depending on the season. The Joe Turner thing originally struck me as T-Bone Walker, but I think that was because it's driven by the guitar and not the piano.

Anonymous said...

That IS it! = Red Sails = Spirit on the water -- similiar lyric themes and all! And seeing how the Platters had a hit in 1960 with it when Dylan was 20, it seems obvious timing for the song to have influenced him. Thanks for solving that for me! (But, ahem, just for fun, Sunny Side was copyrighted in 1929 or 1930 -- and Red Sails in 1935... and both composers appear to be "rather prolific!" Funny how Dylan snatches the very soul of the song though and makes it his own, that's what is real interesting. Jeanne C

Anonymous said...

More Love & Theft

Floater>Snuggled On Your Shoulder (Eddy Duchin & Lew Sherwood)

Cry A While>Low Down Dirty Dog Blues (Son House)

Bye & Bye>Having Myself A Time (Billie Holiday)

Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum>Uncle Johns Bongos (Johnny and Jack)

Lonesome Day Blues>Stop And Listen Blues No 2 (Mississippi Sheiks)

Ted Barron said...

yeah, i'm aware of the other examples you've cited here. i just don't have all those records, and wanted to post the gene austin disc. the mississippi sheiks record is a stretch i think. i know know "stop and listen blues", and the rhythmic shift is similar but hardly unique to that record. is is "stop and listen blues #2" different from "stop and listen blues?"

Ted Barron said...

pardon my typos on that last comment.

anonymous,i think it's "cry awhile" that you're talking about not "lonesome day blues."

Anonymous said...

Correct Ted.I´m wrong.Sorry

Cry A While>Stop And Listen Blues No 2 (Mississippi Sheiks)
Lonesome Day Blues>Low Down Dirty Dog Blues (Son House)

Anonymous said...

[url=]Stop And Listen Blues No 2[/url]