Perhaps the most famous singer-songwriter from the 1960s and 1970s, Bob Dylan is drawing criticism for potentially quoting without attribution parts of his Nobel Prize speech.
A stunning report out of Slate magazine assets that large portions of Dylan’s Nobel Prize were cribbed from, of all things, a SparkNotes’ synopsis of the Herman Melville classic “Moby Dick.”
It’s often said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and in this case the evidence might be more compelling than you initially thought.
Now, Dylan has always cited “Moby Dick” along with “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “The Odyssey” as personal inspirations that motivated his most easily recognized lyrics. Some are saying that all of this inspiration goes beyond fertilizing new ideas to something more insidious.
Although certain excerpts from Dylan’s Nobel Prize speech don’t find their counterpart in Melville’s actual text, there are some striking similarities between Dylan’s speech and the SparkNotes’ summary of Melville’s classic. There are an estimated 11 points of overlap between Dylan’s speech and the SparkNotes’ summary of “Moby Dick.”
Whether there’s anything to these allegations is up to the reader, although the evidence does beg certain questions. A certain passage from the SparkNotes’ summary that discusses the prophet Gabriel’s role in the plot of “Moby Dick” has a striking resemblance to Dylan’s own words in his Nobel Prize Speech.
For comparison, the SparkNotes’ version reads: “One of the ships carries Gabriel, a crazed prophet who predicts doom.” Dylan copies that passage almost word-for-word in his Nobel Prize speech, which left many critics scratching their heads and many fans wondering why Dylan would do this.
Is it a grand spoof or an artist just winging it? The report from Slate is brand-new so it may take some time to work out. Interestingly, though, this isn’t the first time that Dylan has been accused of quoting without attribution, as large parts of the album “Modern Times” drew controversy.