Column: Nobel Prize Or Not, Bob Dylan Changed Us

If any Author deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature, it’s Bob Dylan.

The new honor marks the first time a songwriter has been Given the Decoration, but Dylan is hardly just a songwriter.    

Everything was changed by Bob Dylan.   Music changed. He shifted writing. He altered the kind of voices which could be on the radio. Through his lyrics he brought, and still brings, poetry to audiences who might have never appreciated it before.

Dylan joins Samuel Beckett, Gunter Grass, Pablo Neruda, Jean Paul Sartre, Pearl Buck, John Steinbeck, Albert Camus, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, T.S. Elliot and many others.

Dylan owes a bit to nearly all of them, however, the younger ones likely also owe a little something to Dylan, too.

With Dylan songs   became literature.   No artist, of any stripe, has had phases at which he or she created more influential work than Dylan over the span of just two  decades – 1965 and 1966. From this period came the records Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde and tunes such as Mr. Tambourine Man, Visions of Johanna, Like a Rolling Stone, Ballad of a Thin Man, Desolation Row and Just Like a Woman.   The tunes included free-association that, at least based on longtime friend Joan Baez, even Dylan didn’t know what it meant while he was creating them.

The traces are subject to a plethora of interpretations. There is  thickness. There is danger. He referenced modern culture, myths, classic literature and the Bible.   It seems like a subconscious exploding and divides into a concrete. Simply listen to the barrage of words from the pre-rap  Subterranean Homesick Blues.   Occasionally it sounds silly, but it is spiked with thoughts that have resonated with listeners ever since, including the line, “You do not need a weatherman to know  how the wind blows,” that has come to be  about as familiar as Benjamin Franklin’s maxims from Poor Richard’s Almanack.

And all this came  Later  Dylan had Awakened the Entire World with topical Tunes A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Blowin’ In the Wind and The Times They Are A-Changin’  and Chimes of Freedom — works that expressed the Thoughts of the Civil Rights Movement and the protests against the Vietnam War poetically rather than with Demonstration chants and signs.

He’s returned to external subjects throughout his career, constantly challenging us to look at another side of a film.

Dylan Initially performed in Knoxville in 1965 at the Civic Coliseum, but he appeared in Knoxville Several times, including a show at Thompson-Boling Arena and more intimate shows at the Civic Auditorium and the Tennessee Theatre.

He’ll appear at the Tennessee again on Nov. 9. I didn’t see him before he played in the Auditorium at the 1990s, and I was amazed at both his electricity stage and I could understand the words to the new tunes he sang. Unlike how he’s been depicted and the way he has sometimes sounded about television, Dylan decided to sing clearly and be understood.

The intriguing thing about Dylan as a performer is that he’s never stopped investigating, never stopped changing and never ceased baffling and  sometimes   infuriating audiences. When Dylan began incorporating rock into his folk songs, one British enthusiast famously shouted Judas  at the singer between his songs. Dylan’s answer was to tell the group to turn the volume up, then Dylan and the band launched into  Just Like a Rolling Stone, which moved on to become one of the best-loved songs in contemporary music.   After the Jewish-born artist adopted Christianity it was seen as a joke by a few and his work from the time was dismissed by many, but listen to his own faith-based tune Every Grain of Sand  from the age  and try to make an argument that it’s not one of his best works. It is a good illustration of just how easy and concise good writing could be.

When Dylan recently published two albums crooning classic pop standards, audiences and critics were befuddled again. Dylan doesn’t apologize. He moves forward. But it should be noted that the last time he released two albums of songs he had not written he returned with the album Time Out of Mind (1997), that contained some of his most powerful brand new tunes in years. Again, the tunes could be obtained as simple amusement, but were worthy of profound investigation — if you wanted to move there.

Of course the analysts have gotten creating a religion but that is how people have been influenced by his work.

The majority of us are fans of Dylan. His music provided a background and has helped us through challenging times. However, in addition, he changed us just like he changed music.He made those of us who grew up in the 1960s and ’70s look at music differently and occasionally made us examine the world differently. Great art does this. And he did. There was more popular or beloved than The Beatles in the 1960s and listen to their songs  as soon as they listened to Dylan. He continues to do both with artists along with listeners.   Music artists each week and I talk and songwriters often reference Dylan’s influence. It would be impossible to not be influenced if they were not directly affected.   Is there? Is there? It would be hard to imagine.

All you can resolve about Dylan winning the Nobel Prize is.