Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan are celebrated singers and songwriters whose songs have moved audiences for decades. As they rose to prominence at roughly the same time, it makes sense that they’ve performed together. While this was likely enjoyable for the audience, Mitchell did not like singing with Dylan. She criticized his personal hygiene.
Joni Mitchell once called Bob Dylan a ‘plagiarist’
While Mitchell and Dylan ran in the same circles and performed together, she was rather critical of him. Her attitude toward his work swung into absolute distaste during a 2010 interview with the LA Times.
“Bob is not authentic at all: He’s a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake,” she said. “Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I.”
While Mitchell’s birth name is Roberta Joan Anderson, she clarified that she was nothing like Dylan, who was born Robert Zimmerman.
“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 ‘A’s’ to that,” she said. “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 didn’t like singing with him because of his smell
In 1994, Dylan and Mitchell performed several concerts together in Japan. One night, she shared the microphone with him, an experience she would not want to repeat.
“On the third night, they stuck Bob at the mic with me, and he never brushes his teeth, so his breath was like right in my face,” she said in the book Both Sides Now by Brian Hinton, per Far Out Magazine.
While the comment may seem like a low blow, his former tour manager Victor Maymudes reportedly shared a similar sentiment.
“He’s a very rude, obnoxious guy,” Maymudes reportedly said. “He doesn’t take his clothes off when he goes to sleep and the guy doesn’t clean his teeth. Horrible breath.”
Joni Mitchell walked back some of her critical comments about Bob Dylan
Mitchell’s comments about Dylan, particularly her insults to his musical ability, did not go over well with his fans. They pointed to her history of performing with him and covering his songs. Mitchell did not issue a formal apology, but she did call out the interviewer.
“I hate doing interviews with stupid people, and this guy’s a moron,” she said, claiming that the journalist misconstrued her words, per American Songwriter.
She clarified her comments about Dylan, though they still weren’t exactly flattering.
“I like a lot of Bob’s songs, though musically he’s not very gifted,” she said. “He’s borrowed his voice from old hillbillies. He’s got a lot of borrowed things. He’s not a great guitar player. He’s invented a character to deliver his songs. Sometimes I wish that I could have that character — because you can do things with that character. It’s a mask of sorts.”