A Japanese writer says he was flattered to learn that passages from one of his books apparently found their way into Bob Dylan’s lyrics.
In the song “Floater” from his 2001 album, “Love and Theft,” Dylan croons: “My old man, he’s like some feudal lord, got more lives than a cat.” He also sings, “I’m not quite as cool or forgiving as I sound” and then, “Sometimes somebody wants you to give something up. And tears or not, it’s too much to ask.”
On page 6 of Junichi Saga’s book “Confessions of a Yakuza,” the protagonist recalls: “My old man would sit there like a feudal lord.” Later, he says: “I’m not as cool or forgiving as I might have sounded.” On page 182, he says: “Tears or not, though, that was too much to ask.”
It is unclear if Dylan intentionally lifted any material. A publicist in New York from Dylan’s record label, Columbia Records, said the musician could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
One month ago, Saga, a 62-year-old physician who has written 15 books, had no more than a vague idea of the legendary singer-songwriter.
“I had heard his name before, but I wasn’t familiar with his music,” Saga said in a telephone interview Tuesday from his home in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture. “I’m ecstatic that such an influential singer was inspired by what I wrote.”
Saga, whose 1989 book appeared in English in 1991, said he first heard about the similarities between his work and Dylan’s about a month ago from a reporter from The Wall Street Journal, which first carried the story Tuesday.
The practitioner of Chinese medicine said the revelation was surprising.
“My book hasn’t even sold that well, and it’s out of print in Japan,” said Saga. He estimates the book, which was also translated into German, French and Portuguese, earned him about 1 million yen.
“Confessions” details the story of Eiji Ijichi, a former gangster whose life of crime, gambling and prostitution in pre-World War II Japan was also full of loneliness and hardship.
Ijichi shared his memories with Saga before dying of cancer.
“It’s about a different Japan than the one we see nowadays. This was a man who lived a hard life,” Saga said.
In May, www.dylanchords.com, a Web site devoted to Dylan’s music and lyrics, posted a note pointing out the connection from Chris Johnson, a resident of Kitakyushu. Saga confirmed that the passages on the site come from his book.