‘The interviewer was an a**hole’: Joni Mitchell clarifies her infamous ‘plagiarist’ charge against Bob Dylan

It’s been more than three years, yet the furor surrounding Joni Mitchell’s assertion that Bob Dylan is “a plagiarist” continues unabated. She’s ready to set the record straight.

Mitchell, in a now-infamous April 2010 interview with The Los Angeles Times, is quoted by writer Matt Diehl as saying Dylan wasn’t “authentic at all.”

Mitchell, in the newly posted CBC video below, says she was talking about the larger idea of inspiration versus craft — and how, as they get older, artists sometimes have to work to construct songs that once came to them of a piece. The nuances, she says, were missed: “That’s journalistic bullshit,” she says. “That remark is completely out of context. The interviewer was an asshole.”

Mitchell — who famously appeared with Dylan on stage for the Band’s Last Waltz concert — says the more she tried to contextualize what she meant, the more off track things went: “He’s misconstruing everything I say,” Mitchell adds. “I hate doing interviews with stupid people, and this guy’s a moron.”

Pressed to complete her thoughts on Dylan in this new interview, Mitchell concludes with an assessment that is — in many ways — no less unkind than her original one, however:

“I like a lot of Bob’s songs, though musically he’s not very gifted. He’s borrowed his voice from old hillbillies. He’s got a lot of borrowed things. He’s not a great guitar player. He’s invented a character to deliver his songs. Sometimes I wish that I could have that character — because you can do things with that character. It’s a mask of sorts.”

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  • Chaplain Marilyn

    Joni, please don’t send me any more of your foul mouthed opinions about Bob Dylan. That is just your own personal opinion about his singing and musical talent. There happen to be millions of others who like it.