Watch out kid, it’s something you did.
Perhaps this: “generated new poetic expressions within the American song tradition.” That is how Stockholm’s Nobel Academy sums up the accomplishment 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, at a time when even the antiques are known to readers of journals, but also as it sets a precedent.
Dylan is the first musician to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Though suggested previously, he was considered out of the running, because his poetry occurs to be sung. Academy secretary Sara Danius begged to differ. “Bob Dylan writes poetry for the ear,” she explained. “But it is absolutely alright to read his functions as poetry.”
“It makes great sense, it is late if something,” states 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 at his lyrics, like they were the sonnets of Byron, that are considered literature, or even whoever has composed poetry, do the lyrics divorced from the music rack up? They do. In reality, the music takes a back seat.”
There is another way that Dylan is a particularly fitting candidate for this prize.
Alfred Nobel and his awards’ history is well-known. In a nutshell — or maybe bombshell — Alfred Bernhard Nobel was the 19th century chemist who became one of the planet’s great arms producers, and invented dynamite.
Back in 1888, a French paper published his obituary by error (it was his brother that died). The end result of the story read: “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill people faster than previously, died yesterday.” Horrified, like Ebenezer Scrooge, by this glance of posterity would see him, he changed his ways.
He didn’t give up manufacturing dynamite. However he did establish that the Nobel Peace Prize, which gave some of his arms-gotten gains to folks who’ve “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 should never underestimate the Swedish sense of humor.”
Nobel also established four other prizes: in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature. What these things have to do with world peace may be more obscure. But obviously, Nobel had noble things in your mind: the literary award, established in 1901, was given to the author who made “in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” Whether “ideal” — “idealisk” in Swedish — meant “idealistic” in the sense of devoted to a worthy goal, or “perfect” as in perfect, has been a topic of debate ever since. Suffice it to say, over the years such worthy writers as Chekhov, Tolstoy, Ibsen, Henry James and James Joyce were denied the prize for being insufficiently “idealistic.”
That brings us to Bob Dylan.
Here is a writer who is overwhelmingly perfect. He changed the direction of pop music precisely by bringing poetry. Without him, The Beatles could have spent their career singing “yeah yeah yeah.” Jimi Hendrix would have been only a better-than-average blues guitarist. Without him, there might have been no Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Velvet Underground, Donovan, Counting Crows, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, P.J. Harvey, Leonard Cohen, hip-hop musicians like Common or Talib Kweli or just about anybody who made audio after 1965.
In relation to “idealism” — in the sense which Nobel might have meant it Dylan’s effect is just as devastating.
What artist said more, also said it bitingly, about the subject of peace and war? What artist had more in relation to his music altering the management of public opinion, even federal coverage?
Just how many 1960s peace rallies mobilized into the breeds of Blowin’ in the Wind? How many idealistic children played with The Times They Are A-Changin’ to baffled parents who could not understand what all this counterculture stuff was about? How many Vietnam vets felt that they heard their story told for the very first time at a tough Rain’s Gonna Fall?
“Dylan painted with words and music, I’d almost say, past almost anyone else from the era, an idealistic picture of what the entire world could be,” said musician and NJPAC executive producer David Rodriguez of Englewood,N.J.
Just how many poets could claim to have named a radical underground protest group (The Weathermen was motivated by a line in Subterranean Homesick Blues: “You do not need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”) ? How many could claim to have shifted pubic sentiment on a major legal situation: the of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the boxer accused of murder (though many folks, particularly in the crime scene of Paterson, N.J., could happen with Dylan’s Hurricane)?
What artist ever stuck it to the Alfred Nobels of this planet like Dylan?