Jeffrey Lewis is a Rip-Off Artist

Or so he admits in his NYTimes column on “Measure for Measure”:

Thus so many of us snobby “real” artists are just cover artists in disguise, taking various devious steps to confuse our listeners into praising our “songwriting.” Perhaps what I do should be called “song-composting,” “song-mulching,” “song-smoothie-ing,” something like that. Or you could just call it “ripping off” and take me to court. I’d probably lose.

Jeff’s column speaks to an inherent tension all artists accept in their own work. Just when they’re about to click “save” or “publish” or “send” we think: Did I really make this? Will people realize that I’m merely doing … ? Or that I’m a poor man’s … ? It’s a wriggling acknowledge in the back of our mind that we’re stealing something, or not attributing properly, or that we might not be as original as everyone thinks we are.

But what I find most interesting about Jeff’s column is his begrudging acceptance that while this is a necessary process all artists endure there’s some legal fear, uncertainty, and doubt inherent to creativity that’s just inevitable and unavoidable. As someone who works for an organization that tries to encourage the very appropriation Jeff sees as essential to creation, it worries me to observe this kind of resignation.

Anyway, here’s Jeff doing his thing:

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