Friday, September 22, 2017

Magnanimous Is...


Dan Wilson, songwriter-for-hire, once co-wrote a hit with Nasville mainliner Dierks Bentley called 'Home' that was recorded by the latter.

At the time, Jason Isbell took great offense saying that Wilson and Bentley had ripped off a tune of his called 'In A Razor Town'.

Now, Mr. Wilson has recorded his own version of Home.

And Mr. Isbell has noticed. In a good way.

Here's the relevant bit from the Minneapolis Star Tribune piece linked to in Isbell's tweet, above:

...This single (Bentley's recording of 'Home') went to No. 1 on Billboard’s country singles chart in 2012, giving Wilson his mainstream Nashville credentials. However, it also gained attention when alt-country star Jason Isbell publicly accused its writers of plagiarizing it from one of his songs, “In a Razor Town.”

Wilson: “I quickly learned that the country writers in Nashville don’t want somebody from Minnesota to come down and write a stone-cold country hit. They want you to bring your own vibe to the party. Once I learned that, I learned I could just be myself in those country sessions. I was able to do that with Dierks, where I could be myself and just write a rock song, and he could be himself in between styles. I was very attracted to working with Dierks because of his hybridized styles.”

“I was really bummed Jason thought we plagiarized him. I think we might’ve plagiarized the same old folk songs that Jason also plagiarized. If you think about all the songs that have similar melodies, it would be a very big list. I had never listened to Jason at that time, and I’m pretty sure my collaborators had never listened to him, either. It really tainted my ability to appreciate Jason Isbell for quite a while, which was also a drag, because I was really into his next couple albums.”...

The thing is, at the time Mr. Isbell, while revered in certain circles, was not yet an alt-country star because, well....Mr. Isbell explains it, straight-up, himself:


Imagine that.

Someone admitting they were wrong on the Interwebz.


Regardless all this, to my mind, Isbell's pre-Southeastern 'Razor Town' is a helluva tune:

And just in case you've been hankering for a good chunk of post-SE Isbell....This.



Lew said...

Every time you post one of these, I wind up listening, and then checking out associated links. Before I know it I've spent an hour or two poking around listening and watching artists I haven't been exposed to before. So...thanks!!

RossK said...

You're most welcome Lew--

Happens to me every time also...

It's one of the good things about the intertubz I reckon.


Scotty on Denman said...

So true, Lew.

My favourite tale of plagiarized music I read in Louis Nizer's (1951?) book My Life In Court, one chapter devoted to the story of the old Jamaican gentleman musician who flew up to New York to ask the famous attorney to prosecute Morey Amsterdam, of Dick van Dyke Show fame, for, the gentleman said, stealing his song "Rum and Coca-Cola" and making a bundle on it after the Andrew Sisters scored a huge hit with it during the War. Aside from the palpable racism of the Jewish Amersterdam directed toward black people like the Jamaican plaintiff, particularly the blunt defence that the song rightly belonged to Morey because he copyrighted it first---being so naturally smart, and all---the account of how such a case, new for Nizer who was most famed as a defence lawyer and who accepted the case only reluctantly because of the important principles of justice it involved, is put together, guesstimating his rival's defence of Amsterdam, learning all about music---in Nizer's case, for the first time---and the courtroom drama itself, is as good an overview as I've seen yet about what is legally relevant and what is ethically just about music rights---out of the many similar cases I've read since (including an interesting one involving Canadian Hagood Hardy who was unsuccessfully sued by a pretender to authorship of one of Hardy's most famous compositions---interesting because it was hard to tell if the plaintiff was a scammer or a sincere believer of his own claim---moot, in the legal circumstance).

That is, I learned as much or more about music than law from this ostensibly legal subject and treatment in the book.

I recall everybody dissing Steve Miller for lifting large from pop bands of the day---today his work is considered seminal! ''Twas always thus.

Politics is what one does, music what one is---although I'm sure there are those who'd flip it around completely.

RossK said...

Very interesting scotty--

Didn't know that about Mr. Amsterdam.

Just read Klipf Nesteroff's encyclopedic book 'The Comedians'. Ironically, Amsterdam was one of the few comedians during the radio to TV transition that actually wrote his own stuff and was very prolific about it, often on the spot. Most of the rest of them, including the much venerated Lenny Bruce, stole stuff shamelessly from each other.

As for the is and does...With respect to music, as a dabbler for me most of the time it's 'does, but every once in awhile when I'm really doing the thing it flips over to the 'is'. Then again, I find it's like that with pretty much everything, including my science geek day job.


Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Isbell, deservedly, is getting kind of huge. Lucky thing I caught him and his old band on community cable's Urban Rush. If he is not the best songwriter in North America today I don't know who is.

RossK said...



Plus, he makes it very hard not to root for him and his.

Another cool thing is that he's making, marketing and selling his records all on his own (and he was still doing those community cable gigs when he put Southeastern out).