Look out kid, it’s something that you did.
Perhaps this: “generated new poetic expressions within the American song tradition.” That is how Stockholm’s Nobel Academy sums up the achievement of Bob Dylan, who on Thursday was granted the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.
It is a stunning statement. Not only because of Dylan’s worldwide popularity, but at a time when the best poets are known to readers of journals that are vague, but also because it sets a precedent.
Dylan is the first musician.
Though suggested previously, he was considered out of the running, because his poetry occurs to be sung. Academy secretary Sara Danius begged to differ: The Greek bards, she said, also staged their poetry. “Bob Dylan writes poetry for the ear,” she explained. “But it’s perfectly alright to read his works as poetry.”
“It makes great sense, it’s late if anything,” says David Wills of Woodcliff Lake, who like “Ghosty” hosts the Vintage Rock & Pop ShopÂ Â show at 11 a.m. Sundays, and Retro Radio atÂ 6 a.m. Tuesdays on WFDU 89.1-FM. “If you were to look in his lyrics, as if they were the sonnets of Byron, which are considered literature, or even anyone who has written poetry, perform the lyrics as divorced from the music rack up? They do. In fact, the music takes a back seat”
There’s another way, too, that Dylan is a particularly fitting candidate for this prize.
The history of Alfred Nobel and his awards is well known. In a nutshell — or maybe bombshell — Alfred Bernhard Nobel was the century Swedish chemist who invented dynamite, and became one of the world arms manufacturers.
In 1888, a French newspaper printed his obituary by mistake (it was his brother who died). The end result of the story read: “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became wealthy by finding ways to kill people quicker than previously, expired yesterday.” His ways — somewhat, such as Ebenezer Scrooge, with this glimpse of he would be viewed by posterity he changed.
He didn’t give fabricating dynamite up. However he did establish that the Nobel Peace Prize, which gave some of his arms-gotten gains to folks who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies…” As Gore Vidal remarked years later, “one must never underestimate the Swedish sense of humor.”
Nobel also launched four other prizes: in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature. These things need to do with world peace might be more obscure. But of course, Nobel had noble things in your mind: that the literary award, established in 1901, was to be given to the author who made “in the field of literature the most outstanding job in an perfect direction.” Whether “ideal” — “idealisk” in Swedish — supposed “idealistic” in the sense of dedicated to a worthy purpose, or “perfect” as in ideal, has been a topic of debate ever since. Suffice it to say, over the decades such worthy writers as Chekhov, Tolstoy, Ibsen, Henry James and James Joyce were denied that the trophy for being insufficiently “idealistic.”
Which brings us back.
Here, clearly, is a writer who’s overwhelmingly perfect. By bringing poetry to the lyrics he changed the direction of pop songs. Without him, The Beatles would have spent his career singing “yeah yeah yeah.” Without him, Jimi Hendrix would have been only a better-than-average blues guitarist. Without him, there would have been no Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Velvet Underground, Donovan, Counting Crows, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, P.J. Harvey, Leonard Cohen, hip-hop artists like Common or Talib Kweli or nearly anybody who made music after 1965.
In terms of “idealism” — in the sense which Nobel could have meant it — Dylan’s impact is equally devastating.
What artist said more, and stated it bitingly, on the subject of peace and war? What artist had more of an impact — in relation to his songs altering the management of public sentiment federal policy?
Many 1960s peace rallies mobilized into the breeds of Blowin’ in the Wind? Many children played The Times They Are A-Changin’ to baffled parents who couldn’t understand what all of this stuff was about? Many Vietnam vets felt they heard their story told at the Gon na Fall of a difficult Rain for the first time?
“Dylan painted with music and words, I would almost say, past almost anyone else from the age, an idealistic image of what the world may be,” said musician and NJPAC executive producer David Rodriguez of Englewood,N.J.
Just how many poets might claim to have named a radical underground protest band (The Weathermen was motivated by a line in Subterranean Homesick Blues: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”) ? How many would claim to have changed pubic sentiment on a important legal situation: the of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the boxer accused of murder (though some people, particularly in the crime scene of Paterson, N.J., could take issue with Dylan’s Hurricane)?
What artist ever stuck it to the Alfred Nobels of this world?