"All of these artists, on some level, drew from a folk tradition, and, as I got deeper into their work, they led me to old-time American folk and blues – to artists like Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Dock Boggs, Skip James and the Carter Family. As I fell deeper and deeper in love with these artists I started noticing something that they all had in common – they all copied each other. Woody Guthrie took the melody from the Carters' "Little Darling Pal of Mine" and he wrote "This Land Is Your Land." Robert Johnson took the already-existing blues tales about selling your soul to the devil and they ended up incorporated into his whole image. Bob Dylan took the Scottish ballad "Come All Ye Bold Highway Men" and used it for "The Times They Are A–Changin'." Nina Simone transformed the ridiculous Morris Albert MOR ballad "Feelings" and improvised re-written lyrics, stretching the song over the 10-minute mark and creating something harrowing from it. I realized that this is what artists are supposed to do – communicate back and forth with each other over the generations, take old ideas and make them new (since it's impossible to really "imitate" somebody without adding anything of your own), create a rich, shared cultural language that was available to everybody. Once I saw it in folk art, I saw it everywhere – in hip-hop, in street art, in dada. I became convinced that the soul of culture lay in this kind of weird, irreverent-but-reverant back-and-forth. And I concluded that copyright law was completely opposed to this natural artistic process in a way that was strangling and depleting our culture, taking away something rich and beautiful that belonged to everyone in order to put more money into the hands of the hands of a small, lawyered few."
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Okkervil River Responds to Don Henley: Copyright Laws Kill Art: Will Sheff writes artists "communicate back and forth with each other over the generations, take old ideas and make them new"; Rolling Stone, 6/4/14
Will Sheff, Rolling Stone; Okkervil River Responds to Don Henley: Copyright Laws Kill Art: Will Sheff writes artists "communicate back and forth with each other over the generations, take old ideas and make them new":