And Bobby Dylan won the Nobel Prize on Tuesday “…for,” according to the Swedish Academy, “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2016/ – it was in the category of poetry, songwriting.
Did he do that? – You betcha! I’m a true child of the ’60s/’70s. I don’t know when I first heard Dylan’s name, probably along with that of Joan Baez, sometime in my freshman year of high school – 1963 -’64, about the same time as I first heard the Beatles who quickly took the place of the Beach Boys and the Supremes in my heart.
His “poetry, songwriting”?
From THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN‘
“And you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone. Oh, the times, they are a-changin’.”
And from A HARD RAIN’S A-GONNA FALL
“And I’ll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it.”
No his voice and musical abilities are within normal range. But there was something about Dylan’s lyrics which spoke to a whole generation and , together with the gravelly voice and musical composition, changed us, bonded us, branded us maybe even.
I know there is some dismay among the more “literary minded” about the choice but I think that’s been true of almost every nomination since probably Toni Morrison (1993) – The claims of “there are others so much better!” and “a playwright?” “a poet/translator?” are ongoing.
*** Too bad – Rabindranath Tagore, a novelist and lyricist from India, won the Nobel in 1913. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1913/tagore-bio.html
Also see The Conversation site for more info.
In my opinion, and I’ve watched the Nobel Prizes for many years, there is a part of the award which is political. Rather than simply to the best novelist or poet, in the 21st century (since Gunter Grass won it in 1999 – and that had its own political repercussions) the award has tended to go to writers who have had to struggle to be heard because of the themes of the writing or the country they wrote in – sometimes for the impact they had on society or literature. The honor is not going to go to highly popular writers in basically free speech countries no matter how wonderfully well they write about middle-of-the-road topics.
I believe Dylan’s lyrics have been taught in high school and college literary classes. Songwriting is a form of literary expression (I believe Homer’s works were sung) and now it’s been recognized again.