Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #21
Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018
WE ALL STEAL IDEAS
I’ve talked about Richard Lovelace and his famous Althea poem. There’s another poem from the same era that you have probably heard without realizing it. It begins:
Once there was a way to get back homeward,
Once there was a way to get back home,
Sleep, pretty wanton, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby,
Golden slumbers fill your eyes,
Smiles await you when you rise,
Sleep, pretty wanton, do not cry,
And so on. Paul McCartney took credit for a slight variation on that verse, would have been nice if he’d acknowledged his source. Sadly, I can’t now remember the name of the original poet. Anyone know? The song McCartney wrote from that poem has an interesting story as well. One of the original groups signed to Apple Records when The Beatles started that label was a group originally called Poor White Trash, but later shortened to just Trash. They were signed around the same time as The Iveys, whose name was also changed. They became Badfinger, and went on to some fame. Anyway, the song Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight was written for Trash, who recorded the original version. Later, McCartney replaced the vocal track with his own and released it as a Beatles song. Don’t believe me? Listen to Trash’s version and then McCartney’s version. Save the vocals, they’re identical!
The music industry being what it is, I’m sure there are many other thefts from poets. And, after all, if the poet is long since dead, who’s to care? Probably nobody except people with OCD about such things, like me.
I’m reminded of an interview I once read of the great surrealist Salvador Dali. The interviewer asked Dali about his “borrowing” from other past artists. Dali bristled, his mustache quivering, he indignantly replied, “The divine Dali does not borrow; He steals!”. Yes.
If we’re honest as artists, whether with pen, brush, or camera, we all steal ideas. After all, there is always much to be learned from the masters. When I could find time in my travels, I always visited art museums. The paintings of the old masters can teach you all you need to know about light and shadow, and composition. After all, there are only so many ways you can pose a human body and have it look natural.
My own personal favorite artists are those of the Viennese school of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Particularly Klimt and his disciple Egon Schiele. There are some excellent videos on Klimt in the Khan Academy. The Khan videos we get here are very limited, so naturally we don’t get any on Schiele. I was lucky enough to see some of Schiele’s work in a small museum in Linz, Austria. I was there as one of the judges of an international photography competition and after a morning spent looking at hundreds of photographs, I needed a break to unwind, so I was just walking around the narrow streets of the old town. As I recall, there was a small castle on a hill that had been turned into a gallery. There among mostly mediocre old paintings was a Schiele, the first original of his I’d seen. It was wonderful. I’d bought a big book earlier that had all of his surviving works, but most were reproduced small. Here he was in full size. Many of Schiele’s works were destroyed by the authorities when he was imprisoned for making “improper drawings.”. Prudery is not confined to the USA. Today those surviving “improper drawings”are considered national treasures. Schiele did not produce a great body of work because he died young, victim of the 1918 influenza plague that killed so many in Europe. Funny, but I identified with him and his work long before my own legal troubles, which are mostly because I was making “improper photographs.”. At least that’s what the judge thought. He called my photographs “the worst pornography I’ve ever seen.”. Obviously he’s not a web surfer. In fact, he said all he knew about computers was how to turn his on! Here was a complex case about digital images, among other things, and the judge and most of the jurors were computer illiterate. Jury of my peers, baloney!!
But that’s not the topic of this post, so forgive the digression.
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348. Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonyward.com/2018/08/5866/