Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize in literature. This folk musician is not who most people would guess as even being up for nomination. While the Nobel foundation does not offer a short list of nominees, there were a list of authors who were favorites among those placing bets. On this list were people such as Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian investigative journalist and short story writer, or Ko Un, a South Korean poet. Prior to the announcement, Bob Dylan wasn’t even on the radar.
And then last week he was named a Nobel laureate for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
To those who have only heard his work in passing, it might have come as something of a shock. A Nobel prize for song lyrics? Why him when there are plenty of deserving novelists, poets, and playwrights to give the award to?
Bob Dylan reached fame in the 60’s. His songs such as Blowin’ in the Wind, and The Times They Are a-Changin became anthems of the civil rights and anti-war movements of the time. With the release of Like a Rolling Stone, Dylan began breaking away from his folk origins. Over the years Bob Dylan has continued to create. At the time of writing this he has written 522 songs. On June 7th, 1988, Bob Dylan commenced the Never Ending Tour. Since then, he and his band have played over 2500 shows. With his vast repertoire of material, the setlist is known to change frequently. Fans going to his shows never quite know what they are in for.
Since Greek and Roman times, poetry has been written down with the intention to be spoken aloud, often set to music. So, by those characteristics, is a song not poetry set to music? Should lyrics be judged not only by how they go with the tune, but also for their written merit? That is why Bob Dylan won the Nobel prize. Like Homer, and Sophocles, Bob Dylan has created a literary work that has stood the test of time. Even without the music, you can read his lyrics and learn of hope, change, and the infallible human spirit.
In response to winning the Nobel prize, Bob Dylan was reminiscent of old hits such as Like a Rolling Stone during his performance at the Desert Trip festival in Indio, California. It would be the first time he played that song in three years.
Who do you think will get the Nobel Prize next?
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