Watch CBSN Live

Bob Dylan calls plagiarism accusers "wussies"

Bob Dylan performs on at Les Vieilles Charrues Festival in Carhaix, France. AP

(CBS News) Bob Dylan is taking aim at critics who have accused the veteran singer-songwriter of plagiarizing some of his song lyrics.

In a new Rolling Stone interview, the 71-year-old Dylan fires back, calling his critics "wussies and pussies."

Read more: Bob Dylan: Stigma of slavery ruined America

Journalist Mikal Gilmore asked Dylan what he thinks of the "controversy" over quotations in his songs, stemming from the works of other writers, including Japanese author Junichi Saga and poet Henry Timrod.

And Dylan had a lot to say. The singer, who just releasedhis 35th studio album, chimed in on drawing from the other writers' material.

"Oh, yeah, in folk and jazz, quotation is a rich and enriching tradition," he responded. "That certainly is true. It's true for everybody, but me. There are different rules for me. And as far as Henry Timrod is concerned, have you even heard of him? Who's been reading him lately? And who's pushed him to the forefront?... And if you think it's so easy to quote him and it can help your work, do it yourself and see how far you can get. Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. It's an old thing - it's part of the tradition. It goes way back."

Reuters points out that in 2003, the Wall Street Journal noted that lyrics from Dylan's 2001 release, "Love and Theft," included phrases that were similar to those found in a 1995 biography of a Japanese mobster. The line from the book, "I'm not as cool or forgiving as I might have sounded," was pitted about against Dylan's lyric: "I'm not quite as cool or forgiving as I sound."

Later in the interview, Dylan told Gilmore, "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."

The topic of Dylan and plagiarism has come up many times through the years. In 2010, Joni Mitchell blasted her contemporary in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

"Bob [Dylan] is not authentic at all," she said. "He's a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I."

Meanwhile, Dylan, himself has been caught up in lawsuit involving use of his name. In 1994, he filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Apple, asking for a court order to keep the computer giant from using his name. There are also reports that Dylan reached an out-of-court settlement in 1995 with Hootie & the Blowfish over the band's hit song "Only Wanna Be With You." Dylan reportedly claimed frontman Darius Rucker borrowed some of his lyrics in the track.

The complete Dylan interview will appear in the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone, which hits newsstands Friday. See more of it here.

Tell us: What do you think about Dylan's take?

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome browser logo Chrome Safari browser logo Safari Continue