This fall has proved to be one to go down in history, and not necessarily because of what has been one of the most scandalous, tiring presidential races. For once this time of year, let’s focus on an issue worthy of the utmost American pride, and that is the unprecedented announcement of Bob Dylan as the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in October.
Bob Dylan is possibly the most ingenious, unpredictable and fearless music personality in American pop rock music history. Kicking off his career with what became folk hymns in the second half of the 20th century (“Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” among others), Dylan’s career has been defined by a revolutionary approach of redefining himself. Although his musical style has changed dramatically through the decades, his timeless lyrics, ranging from political to romantic topics, were present from the early years in his career. Countless Biblical and poetic references, which take serious analysis and exploration to understand, have made his songs exceptionally unique to his art.
The news about the 75-year-old superb songwriter being the first musician to receive the award has triggered mixed reactions. There are those who claim that song lyrics are not the same as poetry, and that is certainly true for the big majority of songwriters’ work. But Dylan is not like the rest of the world’s songwriters and I’m not the first nor the only one to believe it. His over-five-decades’ worth of lyrics have been and continue to be studied by top scholars at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard. Most of his compositions, such as “Desolation Row,” “Visions of Johanna” and “It’s Alright, Ma,” are true masterpieces that stand alone as poetic lyrics on a page. If all the music and lyrics we listened to on the radio was nearly as good as Dylan’s, this world would be dominated by intellectuals.
I had the opportunity to attend two Bob Dylan concerts in October. After his fifty-something years of career, he still continues to attract thousands to see him live. In one of the shows he played his signature song “Blowin’ in the Wind” to the audience’s surprise–he is known to avoid performing his 1960s material. Listening to this song got the audience’s hearts and even brought tears to my eyes. There he was, a man standing on the same stage as Elvis Presley once did in Shreveport, LA. A man who not only changed the course of history in music but who has reached the hearts and minds of millions around the globe through his unique talent. And now, he is the first songwriter to stand right next to Gabriel García Márquez as one of the best literary artists of all time.
We are living through exciting times, and just as Bob Dylan has redefined the definition of literature, we all get to take part in changing the course of history by voting this November.