You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bob Dylan Accused of Plagiarizing Portions of Nobel Prize Lecture

In a move all too familiar with high school students everywhere, Bob Dylan might have looked to SparkNotes to familiarize himself with a novel.

According to Slate’s Andrea Pitzer, Dylan may have plagiarized portions of his Nobel Prize lecture from SparkNotes, which provides summaries for works of literature online.

In the recorded lecture on June 4, Dylan described the influence of three literary works on his childhood. Pitzer noticed similarities between Dylan’s lecture and a SparkNotes entry of one of the pieces mentioned, Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” after writer Ben Greenman pointed out Dylan possibly made up a quote from the novel.

Pitzer revealed that in the 78 sentences where Dylan describes “Moby Dick,” more than a dozen share key phrases in passages from the SparkNotes site that don’t appear in the novel at all.

Dylan, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature last October, also likened the themes of Homer’s “Odyssey” and Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

The first questionable phrase that Greenman noted was when a “Quaker pacifist priest” tells Captain Ahab’s third mate, Flask, “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness.” SparkNotes described the preacher in a similar manner, Greenman realized after he couldn’t find the quote in a number of editions of “Moby Dick.”

In one of Pitzer’s examples, Dylan said, “Stubb gives no significance to anything.” SparkNotes wrote, “Stubb… refusing to assign too much significance to anything,” but the phrase “significance to anything” doesn’t appear in the novel. A full list of the at least 20 strikingly similar sentences are available on Slate.

Dylan is no stranger to criticisms of plagiarism, Pitzer noted, which is something he has been open about. He’s admitted to borrowing lyrics from a number of artists, and in 2001, he released an album titled “Love and Theft,” referencing Eric Lott’s “Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class.”

Dylan acknowledged the plagiarism claims of “Love and Theft” in a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone, saying, “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. It has to do with melody and rhythm, and then after that, anything goes. You make everything yours. We all do it.”

More Music

  • Joycelyn Savage, Azriel Clary. Azriel Clary,

    Joycelyn Savage Denies Creating Patreon Account Exposing R. Kelly

    One of R. Kelly’s longtime girlfriends, Joycelyn Savage, has come forward publicly to refute claims that she’s turned on the R&B singer after an Instagram account claiming to be her suggested as much. In a video obtained by TMZ, Savage, first reading pre-written statements on her cell phone, strongly denies the assertion that she had [...]

  • Jagged Little Pill review

    Broadway Review: 'Jagged Little Pill'

    Nearly 25 years after “Jagged Little Pill” hit the shelves of record stores, Alanis Morissette’s innovative 1995 album has arrived on Broadway under the muscular direction of Diane Paulus, who launched this galvanic production at the American Repertory Theater. The show’s supportive book by screenwriter Diablo Cody interprets Morissette’s musical idiom as a universal domestic [...]

  • Who album cover

    Album Review: The Who's 'Who'

    Not only did the death wish expressed 55 years ago in “My Generation” not come true, but the Who have now become the first major rock act of their generation to come up with a whole album that’s actually about getting old. And this from an outfit that pretty much entirely skipped its own middle age, [...]

  • Billie Eilish Makes Her Directorial Debut

    Billie Eilish Makes Her Directorial Debut With ‘Xanny’ Video (Watch)

    In a week with lots of other Billie Eilish things going on — including Variety’s two cover stories, her acoustic performance at Apple’s headquarters and, not least, reports of a multi-million-dollar documentary deal with Apple — a new video from the 17-year-old singer has also arrived. The clip — for the song “Xanny,” from her [...]

  • CMJ Music Marathon to Relaunch in

    CMJ Music Marathon to Relaunch in 2020

    CMJ Music Marathon, the New York-based music festival and conference ran from 1978 until 2016, is apparently relaunching next year. Details are scant, but a tweet from the company’s official account said that the festival is under “new management” — which means that its most-recent CEO, Adam Klein, who was ordered by a judge to [...]

  • Megan Thee Stallion Swae Lee Victoria

    Variety's 2019 Hitmakers and Hitbreakers Revealed

    It’s almost time to say goodbye to 2019 and the horse it rode in on — or the horse that dominated the conversation: Lil Nas X’s. The year in pop has been largely defined by a gay black man peddling country tropes, an all-shapes-and-sizes-glorifying soul shouter and a waif who felt like Kate Bush reincarnated [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content