Experts appear to have made the shocking discovery that Bob Dylan plagiarized the content of much of his Nobel Prize speech!
Initially, writer Ben Greenman noticed that much of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech appeared to be lifted from Herman Melville’s classic Moby-Dick, and he made a blog post about it. However, it wasn’t long before other’s noticed. And shockingly, he appears to have lifted speech text from SparkNotes of the novel, not the actual novel.
It’s not the first time the aging folk star has recycled music and lyrics as his own. In fact, during his ventures into painting, he also has famously used other artists work as inspiration, quite brazenly.
Originally, it appeared as though Dylan accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature with great reluctance. When he finally accepted, it was with much humility and disbelief. In his banquet speech, which was read by American Ambassador Azita Raji, he asked: “Are my songs literature?”
Official lecture with stolen verse
By the skin of his teeth, Dylan finally submitted an audio recording of his acceptance speech for the prize money of $900,000. It was all rather poignant, with Dylan citing his musical influences as will as his literary ones.
As well as Moby Dick, Dylan expressed his deep passion for the works All Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey. However, it would be his quotes from Moby Dick that would raise eyebrows. Slate magazine journalist Andrea Pitzer would dig deep into the research. She examined exactly what sources that Dylan pilfered when writing his speech.
During the 22-minute speech, Dylan would poignantly quote: “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness.” For all intents and purposes, one would assume that this was a direct quote from Moby-Dick.
Shockingly, it is found nowhere in the novel.
So where did Dylan get it from? Why does a man who cites Moby-Dick as such a great influence, get a quote so drastically wrong?
Pitzer trawled the web to try to figure out where such a line came from. Unexpectedly, the line came from a place that many students use to cheat on their homework. In fact, she would discover that approximately 20 sentences within Dylan’s speech appeared to be lifted from the SparkNotes version of the book, rather than the real thing.
Dylan has notoriously recycled the work of others as his own. Indeed, he belongs to the generation of Andy Warhol. Warhol also took symbols and images that represented the world at the time and repurposed them as art. This art would become eternally iconic. Dylan has made no secret about doing the same.
His album in 2001, Love and Theft alluded to his practice of plagiarizing for art’s sake. Even the album title was appropriated from the book Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class.
But why SparkNotes? Many who responded to the revelation about his speech sources seem to interpret this as being more like lazy cheating. Kinder critics wonder if he used the SparkNotes as, at age 76, he may not have read the book in many decades. The influence on his work likely legitimate, but from so many years ago that he may not have read it recently.
Others though wonder if this reflects his questions as to whether he even deserves a Nobel Prize for literature. After all, the fact remains that he is a musician. As he also said in his speech: “When I first received this Nobel price for literature, I got to wondering exactly how my songs related to literature.“