Give this man the Nobel! – An Ode to Bob Dylan

Reading through the posts on this blog has made me realize how poor my writing actually is; and more importantly, it made me remember the necessity for proofreading before hitting ‘Publish’. My apologies for the typos and crappy phrasing in my old pieces, I’ll try harder in future.

Bob Dylan has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature several times since 1996. In this letter http://expectingrain.com/dok/art/nobel/nomination1999.html, an English professor lobbies for his cause, saying-

His blend of poetry and social consciousness with music is
entirely appropriate for Nobel recognition. His songs from the
early 1960s to the present have been passionately concerned with
civil rights, world peace, the preservation of the environment, and
other crucial global causes.

During the peak of the the American counterculture boom of the 1960s and 70s, Dylan’s powerful lyrics appealed to the young. He rode the wave of the anti war movement with anthems like The Times They Are Changin’ and Blowin’ in the Wind. It’s not surprising that his folksy tunes became an integral part of the pop culture of the time.

Even today, though, I believe that Dylan’s work deserves a place among the classics of English music. I’m pretty far removed from the American Civil Rights movement- being in 201x India- and his music still seems relevant and relatable; the sign of an evergreen classic.

You can learn and grow up with Dylan. From the bitter Positively Fourth Street (“You’ve got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend”) to the wise Blowin’ in the Wind (“How many deaths will it take till he knows/ That too many people have died?”), he covers a whole gamut of emotions. How many breakup songs today can claim to be as classy as Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, with it’s resigned “You just kinda wasted my precious time/ Don’t think twice it’s all right”?.

Dylan’s music is an acquired taste- or maybe something that you appreciate as you get older. All I know is that his scratchy vocals and occasionally harsh harmonica playing take a little while to get used to. I’m not alone either; the cover versions of Knockin’ On Heavens Door (Guns ‘n’ Roses) and Like a Rolling Stone (The Rolling Stones) were much more successful that their originals, probably due, in part at least, to the more melodious interpretations by the covering bands. On the other hand, Dylan’s imperfect voice singing Forever Young sounds better to me than the smoother cover by Johnny Cash. Not all songs need professional voices to make them sound good.

Recently, some lyrics were uncovered that had apparently been handwritten by Dylan way back in 1967. A group of currently popular musicians (including the lead singer of Mumford and Sons) came together to make an album- Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes. Personally, I think this is a brilliant initiative, because they’ve composed the music and put a modern spin on these (pretty old) lyrics. The end results, though, weren’t as impressive as I had expected. There are only two outstanding songs, in my opinion- Nothing To It (vocals by Jim James) and When I Get My Hands On You (vocals by Marcus Mumford).

The former is a breezy, light song that reminds one of the invincible feeling of having no responsibilities- “Well I knew I was young enough/ And I knew there was nothing to it”, “Heads I will and tails I won’t/ Long as the call wouldn’t be my own”. The latter is the highlight of the album, a song that should rank among his best work. Mumford pulls off this love song perfectly, and the strangely trippy video makes it even more addictive. Here ya go, you can thank me later:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDUDx15KdkI.


					
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4 comments

  1. Is it too silly to comment here? I love every thought in this piece 🙂 Except.. how could you like Johnny Cash’s Forever Young less? 😮

    Certainly deserves more recognition, he does. But, what does a Nobel in literature mean to his legacy? Are all his lyrics (since that’s the focus, for a literature prize) consistently “ideal”, on a moral ground? And will the proceeds go towards some sort of trust that he’s set up? I’m curious, now that you’ve brought this up.

    Like

    1. I don’t think morality plays much of a part in whether or not a person is awarded the Nobel. Personally, I think it should just be based on the writing- if it has had an impact on people, and if it has revolutionized the field in some way.
      Also, it might be a little too early to make any plans for the prize money seeing as he hasn’t actually won it 😛

      Like

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