Plagiarism is hot right now.
A couple weeks ago Time Magazine columnist Fareed Zakaria admitted to plagiarizing a column from The New Yorker in a recent column about gun control. Zakaria issued an apology “I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault”.
Jonah Lehrer took the unique approach of plagiarizing himself. He created an even bigger stir when he made up quotes of Bob Dylan in his best-selling book Imagine: How Creativity Works . It’s been removed from book stores. Lehrer issued an apology stating, “I understand the gravity of my position. I want to apologize to everyone I have let down, especially my editors and readers.” Lehrer has since resigned from his post at The New Yorker.
It’s too bad these authors aren’t musicians. As Bruce Springsteen stated in his SXSW keynote address, “Listen up youngsters, this is how successful theft is accomplished” as he went into how he lifted a riff straight from The Animals “We Gotta Get Outta This Place” for his song “Badlands”. Paul McCartney has admitted to lifting the bass line from the Chuck Berry song, “I’m Talking About You” for “I Saw Her Standing There”.
A book just came out with the provocative title “The Beatles Extraordinary Plagiarists” . And while by all accounts it is well researched and credits the many musicians that came before The Beatles it has been met with a collective shrug. I think all four Beatles at one point or another acknowledged the huge influence of American blues and early rock records but I think obvious gift The Beatles brought to their music was their ability to turn those early sounds into something new, fresh and exciting to a mainstream audience.
Bob Dylan has also been cited as an infamous plagiarist. You can Google “Bob Dylan plagiarist” and you’ll get ten of thousands citations for everything from lyrics to artwork to his voice. Bob’s new album is called “Tempest“, which he clearly plagiarized from William Shakespeare. Let’s hope Bob doesn’t have to resign his title of American Poet for this blatant theft.