I am a big fan of podcasts. One of my favorite ones to listen to lately is WTF with Marc Maron. The whole premise is that Marc rounds up some comedian friends and they just sit around and talk about being a comic, life, making people laugh and whatever other topics might come up. Most of the time the discussions are both hilarious and sad, funny and insightful. It’s not like I have deep aspirations to become a stand-up, I just really like hearing interesting and funny people talk.
On a recent episode, Maron brought on Carlos Mencia to discuss the accusations that some of his material was stolen from other performers. Of course, this has been covered here, here, and here so I don’t really need to rehash the whole story.
After listening to this episode and hearing how Mencia is viewed by other comics after these incidents, it made me wonder what would happen if musicians thought this same way.
Almost every musician, in any style, is taught to imitate their heroes and influences (either directly or indirectly) as they are developing on their instrument. In jazz circles, it is outright encouraged to lift solos, riffs and licks directly from other musicians. Could you imagine if Sonny Stitt or Miles Davis was ostracized from the bebop community of the early thirties because they played too many Bird licks?
I am all for creating original works, but as a musician you can’t count on how the audience is interpreting your music and sound. In high school a lot of my friends said I sounded like Clapton (I wish), but I just never heard it and I listened to Clapton a lot during that time.
What is it about different types of art that makes imitation more accepted? I can’t say I know for sure, but it makes me want to go back and cop some Clapton licks (again).
Anyways, just some thoughts about art and theft on a Thursday night.