Bob Dylan Did Not Plagiarize On Modern Times

This article was last updated on May 27, 2022

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Bob Dylan may have used the tune from Red Sails in the Sunset but he paid a royalty to the songwriter’s estate

By Stephen Pate – I read a posting on Expecting Rain that addresses the question of Bob Dylan’s purported musical theft.  Critics have accused Dylan of plagiarism.

However, in the case of Modern Times, when Bob Dylan used the tune from another song he paid a royalty.  Here’s Dylan’s Beyond the Horizon from Modern Times.


Here’s the original song “Red Sails in the Sunset” sung by Nat King Cole. It sounds very similar. The lyrics are obviously not the same but in song copyrights, the tune is more important.

When Dylan was notified of the similarity between his song and Red Sails in the Sunset he paid the royalty. Dylan’s critics, who think they can prove claims of plagiarism, obviously don’t have the facts. What Bob Dylan or any artist has stolen is between them and the copyright owner.

Song publishers are vigilant in protecting the copyrights of the songs they represent. In fact, detecting copied tunes is a fine art honed by the best publishers.

Jimmy Kennedy, and Will Grosz wrote the song “Red Sails in the Sunset“.  Jimmy Kennedy Jr. , the original songwriter’s son, published this letter in the Telegraph.

Popular plagiarism

“SIR – You report that a court has ruled that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams plagiarised Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give It Up in their 2013 hit Blurred Lines.

A few years ago, Bob Dylan included the song Beyond the Horizon on his album Modern Times. When it was shown to be very similar to a famous song, Red Sails in the Sunset – written by my father, Jimmy Kennedy, and Will Grosz – this was acknowledged and a royalty paid.

There are many examples of unintentional as well as intentional plagiarism in the writing of pop songs, making it a challenge to be original. During the Thirties, the so-called golden age of songwriting, the leading publisher David Day used to joke that when an aspiring songwriter asked him if he liked their new song, he would reply: “Like it? I’ve always liked it!”

The lines have been blurred for a long time.

Jimmy Kennedy Jr
Vivès, Pyrénées-Orientales, France” (

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By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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