Joni Mitchell Accuses Leonard Cohen Of “Lifting Lines” From Camus; Leonard Cohen Responds

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But, unfortunately, in the Camus, I found he [Cohen] lifted lines. ‘Walk me to the corner, our steps will always …’  That’s literally a Camus line. So I thought that’s like Bob Dylan … When I realized that Bob and Leonard were lifting lines, I was very disappointed. And then I thought that there’s this kind of a self-righteous quality about — you’re a plagiarist and I’m not. So I plagiarized from Camus in ‘Come In from the Cold’ intentionally. I forget which verse it is, but when I put the single out, I edited that verse out. I just took it out. Leonard got mad at me actually, because I put a line of his, a line that he said, in one of my songs. To me, that’s not plagiarism. You either steal from life or you steal from books. Life is fair game, but books are not. That’s my personal opinion. Don’t steal from somebody else’s art, that’s cheating. Steal from life — it’s up for grabs, right? So I put something that he said in one of my songs and he got real irritable, [saying], ‘I’m glad I wrote that.’quotedown2

Joni Mitchell

From Joni Mitchell In Her Own Words by Malka Marom. ECW Press: September 9, 2014

Note: “Walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme” is from Leonard Cohen’s Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. I haven’t been able to discover (nor can anyone else apparently) the Camus line to which Joni Mitchell refers.

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I found a lot of Lorca and Camus in his [Leonard Cohen’s] lines. And he was living the life of Camus, even down to the way he dressed, and his house in Hydra. It was disappointing to me, because as far as I could see, he was an original. I have this perverse need for originality. I don’t really care for copy, second-generation artists. I’m not a traditionalist. It’s the discoverers that excite me. Not ‘new’ like a new face, the way ‘new’ is used to sell something. They’re not new at all. They’re a new person doing the old shit. ‘Suzanne’ is a beautiful song, though.quotedown2


From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

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I read somewhere that she [Joni Mitchell] felt I had tricked her in some way because I hadn’t told her that Camus had written a book called The Stranger and that I’d written a song called ‘The Stranger.’ The song had nothing to do with the book, nor was I the first person to call a song ‘The Stranger.’ She felt that I’d plagiarized She felt that I’d plagiarized Camus.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Sarah Crichton Books (October 17, 2017).

Note: In Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell, Yaffe also observes that Joni Mitchell “(wrongly) believed that ‘Walk me to the corner / Our steps will always rhyme’ was ripped off from Camus.”

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Credit Due Department: Photo by Crossett Library

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