Koos Kombuis

The battle of Loslappie

2012-04-10 09:45
Perhaps it's because I have been trying to steer clear of this particular vice recently, but I am realising, more and more, that there are few things as unnerving, as unflattering, and as messy in a celebrity's life than a fight with another celebrity.

And no, don't worry, I'm not even going to mention Joost and Amor in this column.

What set me thinking about celebrity feuds has been the rather puzzling story in which Theuns Jordaan claimed that he is one of the original co-authors of a song that was later a big hit for Kurt Darren, Loslappie.

I must admit that I find this claim quite mystifying, because I know for sure that, had I been the author of Loslappie, I certainly would have tried my best to keep it a secret.

I would beg my wife, my children and my close friends not to breathe a word to anyone. And if news somehow leaked out, let's face it, I'd rather drown in my bath after an overdose of cocaine like Whitney Houston than admit the awful truth!


But then again, I suppose this fight is more about royalties than about artistic integrity.

I think Kurt's reaction to Theuns's allegations is quite ingenious: He says Loslappie is a traditional song dating from 1926. Ingenious, because by saying this, he not only washes his hands from the atrocity of penning those dumb lyrics himself, but also makes sure all the money still goes to him; as far as my limited legal knowledge stretches, if something had been written as long ago as 1926, the copyright has long expired by now!

The problem of plagiarism among artists is one that has often haunted me. I know it's an old joke by now, I was devastated when I discovered, years ago, that the opening chords of my song Lente in die Boland sounded almost like Likely the Pink!

I think the reason why artists are haunted by the spectre of plagiarism is because it is the one mistake anyone can unwittingly make which can instantly destroy your career.

I was reminded of this recently when I hunted around for a recipe for leftover quiche among my wife's cookery books in the kitchen and came upon Darrel Bristow-Bovey's 2003 masterpiece, The Naked Bachelor – Your Essential Survival Guide to Modern Living. I opened the book at random on page 25, and, under the intriguing heading "The Ontology of Dust", read the following paragraph:

"For instance: what is dusting? Dusting is not cleaning. Dusting does not remove dust from your home. Dusting simply agitates and relocates it. Dusting is precisely the same drama, played small, that we are seeing in the Middle East…"

I literally sat down and cried. How I miss the witticisms of Darrell Bristow-Bovey! How I wish I could still read his weekly column in The Sunday Independent!

How I loathe the fact that, because of a few lines accidentally copied from another, rather obscure publication – a mistake Darrell himself readily admitted and apologised for at the time – the writing career of this brilliant genius should now be effectively over! I asked another ex-columnist (for the record, it wasn't Dave Bullard) about this, and got the reply: "No one's ever going to touch Darrell again."

What a ghastly tragedy! Those few lines that got mixed up with his own notes and was published as part of The Naked Bachelor could not have formed more than 0,0001 % of his total output (Darrell, for those of you who remembered, was a very prolific columnist).

To this day, I cannot enter a bookstore without looking for his name, hoping that, after his almost ten years in the ex-columnist wilderness, he might have dared to make a comeback with a really insightful and mature autobiography, steeped in pain, with his own face on the cover, somewhat older and wiser and with a touch of grey in his temples, and a deep sadness in his eyes!

South Africa really needs a book like that. South Africa, and the world, needs writers like Darrell Bristow-Bovey! In fact, we need it so much more than we need a song like Loslappie! 

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