In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Dylan has made his first public comments on accusations of plagiarism often leveled against him. Dylan said that in folk and jazz music “quotation is a rich and enriching tradition.” Terming his critics as “wussies and pussies” he complained “Everyone else can do it but not me … There are different rules for me.”
The popular singer and songwriter told Rolling Stone “I’m working within my art form … It’s called songwriting. It has to do with melody and rhythm, and then after that, anything goes. You make everything yours. We all do it.”
Over his career, Dylan has been accused multiple times of plagiarism. In 2003, the Wall Street Journal went to great lengths to find that Dylan’s 2001 record “Love and Theft” had phrases similar to that contained in the 1995 biography of a Japanese mobster, whom nobody knew. But WSJ identified at least twelve similar phrasings. In 2006, the NY Times marked such similarities between the phrasings of a poet from the Civil War era and Dylan’s “Modern Times.”
Swatting away his critics, Dylan said, “These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me… Judas – the most hated name in human history! … If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified. All those evil … can rot in hell.” Dylan referred to a section of his critics who in the 1960’s compared him to Judas for moving into electric guitar blues.
The controversial and wildly popular singer has been criticized throughout his life because of his unpredictability and refusal to conform to conventions. In 1960’s he accepted the electric guitar, in 1970’s he embraced Christianity, though raised as a Jew; In the 1990’s he released an album of children’s nursery rhymes, in 2006, he featured in a sensuous Victoria’s Secret commercial.
His final say on the point to Rolling Stone was, “I’m not like you.”