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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Dylan Lyrics Similar to Book by Japanese Doctor

Aired July 8, 2003 - 19:52   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it used to be that plagiarism was the work of politicians and historians. Senator Joe Biden and author Doris Kearns Goodwin all caught the bug. But now plagiarism may have hit the big-time, rock 'n' roll. Granted, in this case, it's an ancient rock 'n' roller, but Bob Dylan was one of the first, even giving the rolling stones their name. So you can imagine the shock when it turned out some lyrics on his new album, "Love and Theft," closely mirror an obscure book by a Japanese doctor.
Consider this line from "Confessions of a Yakuza." That's the book. Quote -- "My old man would sit their like a feudal lord." Bob Dylan sings -- quote -- "My old man, he's like feudal lord. Got more lives than a cat."

The "Wall Street Journal"'s Jonathan Eig reported this story after it made the rounds online and he joins us today.

Jonathan, I know -- I think you're a Dylan fan. Were you surprised by this?

JONATHAN EIG, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, I was very surprised. My brother spotted it on a Web site and sent it to me and I took a look at it and thought it was bizarre that he, first of all, took so much from such an obscure book.

COOPER: Well, let's look at some of the other examples. We're going to put some on the screen. This, again, this is one from "Confessions of a Yakuza" -- quote -- "Tears are not, though that was too much to ask." And then the song "Floater," Dylan sings, "Sometimes somebody wants you to give up -- give something up and tears are not. It's too much to ask."

Does this strike you as similar?

EIG: Sounds very similar to me. Sounds like he didn't change it much at all.

COOPER" Is it plagiarism? I mean, you know, there's a famous case of Doris Kearns Goodwin who had to resign from the Pulitzer committee when some discrepancies were noted in her work. Does the same hold true? I mean, what's the ramifications for a rock star?

EIG: It's hard to say. Plagiarism is when you pass off some else's work for your own. And Dylan clearly takes full credit for all the lyrics on this album. It says so on the liner notes, and looks pretty clear to me that some of these words appeared exactly as they appear on the album in the book. So you can certainly make a case that he passed off someone else's work as his own.

It's hard when you're comparing music to books. You know, the other cases, as you mentioned, where writers' prose taking work from another writer of prose. This is someone translating prose to poetry or song lyrics.

COOPER: Just to give the audience who didn't read the article in the "Wall Street Journal" today some more information about this, I want to show another comparison. This from "Confessions of a Yakuza" -- quote -- "There was nothing sentimental about him. It didn't bother him at all that some of his pals had been killed" -- endquote.

Now Bob Dylan's song, "Lonesome Day's Blues" -- "He's not sentimental. It don't bother him at all how many pals have been killed."

It seems like he just changed didn't to don't.

EIG: Yes, it's pretty close.

COOPER: It's pretty -- I know we actually tried to get a statement from Bob Dylan or from his people. We didn't get anything. I think he gave you a statement, though. What did they basically say?

EIG: His manager said that as far as he knows, all of Dylan's work is original and that Dylan was not available for comment.

COOPER: All right. Well, we'll have to see if this has any implications further than this. Jonathan Eig, it was an interesting story today. Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

EIG: Thank you.

COOPER: And as I just mentioned, unable to reach Bob Dylan for comment. His representative told Jonathan that -- quote -- "As far as I know, Mr. Dylan's work is original."

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