Treading the fine line between past and present, This Week, in History is a round-up of the latest historical events and findings which continue to impact the world today. This week, Bob Dylan is accused of using SparkNotes in his Nobel Prize Lecture, Yoko Ono is credited for co-writing ‘Imagine’ and video footage confirms Bruce Lee can actually kick your dad’s butt in a fight.
Bob Dylan cites SparkNotes as a lifelong influence during Nobel Lecture
‘I think Abraham Lincoln said that,
‘“I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours”
‘I said that.’
– Bob Dylan, ‘Talkin’ World War III Blues’
Over the course of a career, in which he made lyrical appropriation into an art, it would seem Bob Dylan still has at least one grand act of theft left in him. Writing for Slate, Andrea Pitzer decided to investigate the content of the songwriter’s recent Nobel Lecture, which is a requirement for any laureate who wishes to claim the $900,000 prize.
Motivated to so so, after the writer Ben Greenman claimed a few quotes Dylan took from Moby Dick never actually appeared in the Herman Melville book, Pitzer uncovered what appeared to be a grand revision of other classic works, including Homer’s The Odyssey and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. It was not necessarily that he was fabricating lines from these books, but rather that the original lines had been tweaked slightly, with the only source matching Dylan’s words being those contained on the site SparkNotes, a once ‘Popular Study Guide’, now the official study guide for Nobel Laureates.
Of course, for a variety of university students the revelation must be music to their ears. One can reach as high as to become a Nobel laureate and still crib lines from a site that makes Wikipedia look watertight. However, it is also plausible to assume a figure as contrary as Dylan would take a particular delight in poking fun at the credibility of such an institution through such a brazen act. Pitzer even went as far as to align this potential stunt with the likes of Duchamp’s Urinal and Warhol’s Brillo Pads.
It seems only fair though that Dylan would get a chance to rewrite Homer, Remarque and Melville, since he himself has had plenty of fake lines and observations put into the public domain under his own name, one of the more infamous being written by Jonah Lehrer of the New Yorker in his bestseller, Imagine: How Creativity Works. According to Jonah, Dylan said “[Creativity] is a hard thing to describe. It’s just this sense that you have something to say”, and for that, he would end up resigning from the magazine.
Whether Dylan will receive a similar penalty is doubtful. The jury is out, even if a few university professors said they would fail him had he done this in a college essay. Dylan, who was reluctant to even appear at the ceremony honoring his contribution to literature has not commented on the matter, although he has previously said on plagiarism that “Everybody does it”. So, in keeping with this idea, here is a quote from his song ‘All I Want’, which will now serve as his official comment on the matter,
But I did it, though, because he lied
Because he took you for a ride
And because time was on his side
And because I . . .
I want you, I want you
I want you so bad
Honey, I want you
Video Footage Confirms Bruce Lee Can Kick Real Ass Too
Rare footage surfaced this week of martial arts icon, Bruce Lee sparring with two of his students, Ted Wong and Taky Kimura. Reportedly the only known footage of Lee in a “real fight”, the sessions were filmed at the 1967 Longbeach Karate Championship, set up in 1964 at which time, Lee would attract the attention of producer William Dozier who later cast him as Kato in The Green Hornet.
Twenty-seven years old at the 1967 Championship, the only previous footage of Lee in attendance was a twenty second clip of him demonstrating chi sau whilst blindfolded, before going on to perform press-ups using two fingers.
This new video however, displays Lee’s fluid motions in full action, though state-laws required him to wear protective gear. It also has equal value in showing one of the earliest interactions between Lee and his student, Ted Wong who encountered Lee at one of his seminars in Los Angeles several months prior to the August-held event, before going on to become a respected instructor in his own right.
Renowned for his films, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon, alongside his roles in the original Batman series and The Green Hornet, this rare archival footage adds to the legacy of Lee, who died in July of 1973 after collapsing during a dubbing session for Enter the Dragon.
… and finally, Beatles fans who hated Yoko Ono are disappointed to discover they actually like her songs
After forty-six years of being written off as an artistic hack by many loyal Beatles fans, Yoko Ono will at last receive credit for her contribution to one of the group’s most iconic post-break-up hits, John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’.
Announced by David Israelite, CEO of the National Music Publishers Association, he delivered the news on Wednesday after playing an audio recording of Lennon admitting,
“[‘Imagine’] should be credited as a Lennon-Ono song because a lot of it – the lyric and concept – came from Yoko. But those days I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of omitted to mention her contribution. But it was right out of Grapefruit, her book. There’s a whole pile of pieces about ‘Imagine this’ and ‘Imagine that'”
Commenting on her receiving this songwriting credit, Israelite said,
“While things may have been different in 1971, today I am glad to say things have changed. So tonight it is my distinct honor to correct the record some 48 years later and recognize Yoko Ono as a co-writer… and to present Yoko Ono with this well-deserved credit.”
Writing on Instagram, Sean Lennon (Ono/Lennon) labelled it the “Proudest day of my life”, in which he offered a slightly more critical paraphrasing of his father’s admission, by saying “‘If it had been anyone other than my wife I would’ve given them credit'”