Bob Dylan Deserves A Nobel Prize And More

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bobdylan2At a time when the state of public discourse has hit such a depressing all-time low, the recent news that Bob Dylan is to be honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature ought to lift the hearts not just of Rock music fans, but of every thinking, feeling human being on this planet. One way or another, Dylan’s writings have touched each and every one of us, whether we know it or not, and while his fans rejoice in his Nobel Prize, I think it is only the beginning of the historic glory that this “original vagabond” deserves.

We live in an age of political turmoil, but Dylan said everything he needed to say about politics right at the start of his career, more than 50 years ago, and he rarely went back there again. Protest songs are easy. Getting to the heart of the human condition is a lot harder. Just consider the range of his writings — he told stories about city life and country life, but mostly Dylan illuminated the inner life.

He has written extensively about spiritual meaning and erotic love, joy and despair, youth and old age, perseverance and resignation. His songs are infused with humor and anger, whimsy and existential angst, and every feeling in between. The guy has said it all, and at age 75, he’s still got more to say.

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I know we live in an age where people get their kicks stomping on somebody else’s dream, but some of the criticisms of Dylan’s Nobel win are truly ludicrous. Those who say song lyrics can’t be literature because their home is not the printed page are not just elitist, they are also quite wrong. Not only do Nobel Prize-winning playwrights know that words come to life in performance, but every bard and holy person in history knows that important words have more impact on humans when they are sung. Song is the most natural literature we’ve got.

An even more stupid criticism of Dylan’s Nobel win is that he is no longer “relevant”, a charge usually accompanied by an ageist slur along the lines of “it’s your dad’s Nobel Prize winner”. Huh? It’s the Nobel Prize, not a buzzfeed list of great contemporary artists. It’s supposed to be about a body of great work over time, not what’s popular this week.

But here’s the thing: if you enjoy just about any kind of contemporary lyric music, the truth is that Bob Dylan had something to do with it. He taught songwriters that no subject was off-limits for song, and that any inner thought or feeling could be expressed in lyric. Bob Dylan invented a kind of artistic expression the world had never seen before. You’re damn right that is relevant, and it will continue to be relevant for decades to come.

The Nobel Prize for Literature is the very least the guy deserves. I think he should also get the Peace Prize for inspiring so much song and conversation, and if there was an award for Human Chemistry I’d give him that one too.

Photo Credit: By Francisco Antunes (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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