Since 1901, the Swedish Academy has annually awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in memory of donor, Alfred Nobel.
On October 13th, it honored Bob Dylan as its latest recipient. The last time an American received the prize was in 1993 with Toni Morrison.
The Academy cited Dylan’s work as “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
I have mixed feelings about his victory.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Bob Dylan is brilliant. I value his contributions to music, culture, poetry, and I love many of his songs. I would not dare downplay his talent.
No, my thoughts have to do with whether he should be given a prize that has been traditionally awarded to a writer of fiction and non-fiction.
It hardly seems like a level playing field to measure the song lyric against prose.
Prose presents itself naked on a page while the lyric is dressed up with voice or instrumentation or both.
As an author who struggles to create with only words, I know how difficult it is to produce a story, poem, or novel, and I empathize with writers because of this.
Bob Dylan is an incredible songwriter—perhaps the best, but is he a writer of literature? I don’t believe so.
Regardless, I want to honor him and his music over the coming weeks, for the simple reason that his songs remain as relevant today as they were when he first wrote them. That is an amazing feat when you consider they span a career of more than fifty years.
I was surprised to discover that after writing nearly 300 music posts, I’ve blogged Bob Dylan only three times, and just once on his own with “Blowin’ in the Wind” as part of my Harmonica series.
The other two times were in a group with “My Back Pages” and “End of the Line” with the Traveling Wilburys.
In light of the recent American election results, this classic of Dylan’s is once again, prophetic of changing times.
Here we see him performing for President Obama at the White House (Feb. 2010) in celebration of music from the Civil Rights Movement.
Is it me, or do you feel a twinge of irony in this?
Wishing all a peaceful week,