Bright Eyes, Neil Young, and Dave Rawlings: Plagiarism or Not?

Plagiarism or not?

I think the answer is no, but here’s why I ask.

I finally got around to listening to A Friend of a Friend, the recent album by the Dave Rawlings Machine. Track four is a double cover of Bright Eyes’ “Method Acting” and Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer.”

Listening to Rawlings perform “Method Acting,” I was struck by how much it resembled a different, and somewhat obscure, Neil Young song, “Distant Camera.” I’d heard “Method Acting” before, but did not notice the similarity in Bright Eyes’ raucous original version.

So I’m 95% sure that Conor Oberst is innocent, and even if he’s guilty, it’s entirely excusable plagiarism. The arrangement makes “Method Acting” and “Distant Camera” very different songs.

So the next question is, coincidence or not?

No idea on this one. Rawlings is a pretty clever guy. Was Rawlings saying, “You think this is Bright Eyes and Neil Young, but it’s actually Neil Young and Neil Young”?

Am I the first to get the joke?

Listen for yourself.

Bright Eyes – “Method Acting”

Neil Young – “Distant Camera”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Dave Rawlings Machine – “Method Acting/Cortez the Killer”

Bonus Track

Neil Young – “Cortez the Killer”


3 Responses to Bright Eyes, Neil Young, and Dave Rawlings: Plagiarism or Not?

  1. Mark Stein says:

    Rawlings co-wrote/produced the Bright Eyes song (and album), same with the Ryan Adams song and the Old Crow Medicine Show Song. I think this album was kind of his portfolio, proof that he’s done more in the past 15 years than back up the amazing Gillian Welch.

    You can’t call it plagiarism because in the folk world there is no plagiarism. It is tradition to pay homage to your heroes playfully and with respect, and the best can do this without the average listener figuring it out so the hard-core folk fans can feel special when they get the secret.

    Todd Snider does it the best, and most often.

  2. Mark Stein says:

    todd puts it best:

  3. Mark Stein says:

    Never mind, this is the link. Pay close attention to Seattle Grunge Rock Blues.

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