Crickets chirp, only interrupted by an eerie, lonely guitar riff. The strings are played as if
by themselves, simultaneously contradicting each other and harmonizing perfectly. Suddenly, a
few short blasts from a harmonica take control, and then just as quickly dissipate as if they
were never there, leaving the listener yearning for more. Another few notes from the harmonica, and then Dylan’s voice sweeps over his audience, managing to be rough and soothing all at once.
“Preacher was a talkin’, there’s a sermon he gave/ He said every man’s conscience is vile and depraved/ You cannot depend on it to be your guide/ When it’s you who must keep it satisfied.”
With such beautiful music, it is no wonder the lyrical mastermind that is Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature this year.
In October of 1961, 20-year-old Bob Dylan signed with Columbia Records, launching his extremely successful career. However, Dylan did not immediately become popular, as his first
album with Columbia, “Bob Dylan,” failed to make any profit. Many suggested that Dylan should
back out of his deal with the record company, but he stuck with it, and his decision eventually
Dylan signed with a new manager, and by the time his second album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” came out in 1963, he had made a name for himself in the music industry. This album had many songs that protested certain injustices, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which objected to the social and political norms of the time. Dylan was also a prominent figure in the civil rights movement, as is shown in his third album, “The Times They Are a-Changin’”. In this album, Dylan addressed the social inequity occurring around him. The songs targeted specific events, such as the murder of Medgar Evers, a civil rights worker.
In 1965, Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” became the second most popular song in the United States. Today, it is widely considered to be one of the greatest songs of all time. In the 1970’s, however, Dylan’s songwriting became unpredictable and therefore criticized. His popularity began to decline, especially when he began writing Christian-themed songs in the late 70’s. To many, the appeal of Bob Dylan’s music was its cynicism and dark attitude. The introduction of religion seemed to dilute his popular realism.
Throughout the next few decades, Dylan experimented with many different genres, including a mixed album, more protest songs, and even some rap. His work was received differently, as some loved everything he made while others were critical of how indecisive he seemed. The most recent development in the career of Bob Dylan is his winning of the Nobel Prize for literature.
This year, Dylan became the first songwriter to win the prize. Mysteriously, however, he never appeared to receive his award. Nobody could find him, as even after he performed onstage he would seem to vanish. Eventually, Patty Smith, a fellow singer/songwriter and friend of Dylan, was asked to receive the award on his behalf.
Smith read a speech written by Dylan, which explained that although he was greatly honored to win the prize, he never considered his lyrics to be “literature.” As Dylan said, “if someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I’d have about the same odds as standing on the moon.”
Although Dylan does not believe he deserves such a prestigious award, the rest of the world certainly does. Authors such as Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and Salman Rushdie all agree that Dylan is a literary master. Rushdie even describe Dylan as, “the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition.”
With his beautiful lyrics and inspiring messages, Dylan definitely deserves the award.
The Nobel Prize, while a great accomplishment, is not the only recognition Dylan has received over his career. He has won eleven Grammys, a Golden Globe, and even an Oscar.
Dylan has also been elected into four halls of fame: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Although Dylan’s approaches to music have varied, he has never ceased to weave words into the message intended to be conveyed. Without a doubt, Bob Dylan is one of the best songwriters of his, or any, generation.