Joni Mitchell accuses Bob Dylan of plagiarism

Folk legend Joni Mitchell has launched a scathing attack on fellow song-writer Bob Dylan, labelling him a "fake" and a "plagiarist".

The Canadian-born singer songwriter rarely gives interviews but when a reporter from the LA Times spoke to the 66-year-old, she wasted little time in telling her interviewer her opinion of a number of American music icons.

When the reporter raised the point that Mitchell and Dylan had changed their names, the singer launched into surprisingly forceful tirade against her folk contemporary. "Bob is not authentic at all," she said. "He's a plagiarist and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I."

Explaining her name change (Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson) she added: "As for my name, my parents wanted a boy, so they called me Robert John; when I came out a girl, they just added two letter As to that. Then I married Chuck Mitchell; I wanted to keep my maiden name – I had a bit of a following as Joni Anderson – but he wouldn't let me."

She moved on to other artists, including Janis Joplin and Grace Slick whom she accused of "[sleeping with] their whole bands and falling down drunk".

Railing against the "stupid, destructive" era we live in, Mitchell said: "Americans have decided to be stupid and shallow since 1980. Madonna is like Nero; she marks the turning point."

The one artist she praised was Jimi Hendrix – "the sweetest guy". Reminiscing about listening to their tapes late at night, she also alluded to how one of the world's greatest guitarists had become frustrated about his public image. "He made his reputation by setting his guitar on fire, but that became repugnant to him," she said. " 'I can't stand to do that any more,' he said, 'but they've come to expect it.'"

Mitchell talked at length about a skin condition she claims to suffer from. Morgellon's syndrome is regarded by most doctors as a delusional condition where sufferers imagine fibres growing under their skin, rather than a clinical disease. But Mitchell said it left her largely housebound, calling it a "weird, incurable disease that seems it's from outer space. But my health's the best it's been in a while. Two nights ago, I went out for the first time since 23 December."

She added: "Fibres in a variety of colours protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm: they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral. Morgellons is a slow, unpredictable killer, a terrorist disease: it will blow up one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year."

Pacifist on the warpath

*Joni Mitchell is not known for holding her tongue, particularly when it comes to fellow female artists. In 2006, the 66-year-old singer songwriter mused: "I always thought the women of song don't get along, and I don't know why that is. I had a hard time with Laura Nyro also, and Joan Baez would have broken my leg if she could."

*She doesn't have much time for female poets either. "Augustine, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath are confessional writers and all three make me sick," she once said. "I have nothing in common with them. Sexton was a whopping liar. All of her confessions, as far as I can determine, seem to be contrived. Plath, I don't know that well, but I don't think suicide is chic."

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