American songwriter Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize in literature
Bob Dylan, Nobel laureate. In the book world's equivalent of a Supreme Court ruling, the Nobel judges have stated that Dylan is not just a rock star. He is a poet. And one of the very highest order.
Dylan is 75 years old. He becomes the first musician in the 115-year history of the Nobel to win the prize in literature. He was honored for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."
It is the ultimate rise for Dylan. It was Dylan who set off a lasting debate over whether lyrics, especially rock lyrics, can be seen as art. Dylan gave the world "Like a Rolling Stone," ''Blowin' in the Wind" and dozens of other standards. He now finds himself on a list that includes Samuel Beckett, Toni Morrison and T.S. Eliot. It was Eliot whom Dylan referred to in his epic song "Desolation Row."
"Congratulations to one of my favorite poets, Bob Dylan, on a well-deserved Nobel," tweeted President Barack Obama. In 2012, he presented the singer-songwriter with a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Dylan rarely gives interviews. A representative said the star had no immediate comment. Dylan is on tour.
The startling announcement out of Stockholm was met with both joy and dismay.
Many music fans already quote Dylan as if he were Shakespeare. Judges work Dylan quotations into their legal opinions all the time. They occasionally use phrases such as "The times they are a-changing" and "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."
Others, though, lamented a lost moment for books.
"An ill-conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies," wrote "Trainspotting" novelist Irvine Welsh. The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said it was too bad that a "real" writer didn't get the award.
But several leading authors praised the news.
Nobel laureate Toni Morrison said in a statement that she was pleased. Dylan, she said, was "an impressive choice." Salman Rushdie, who has written songs with U2's Bono, tweeted that Dylan is "the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice."
Dylan's award also was welcomed by the Academy of American Poets.
Dylan's stature among musicians is unchallenged, however. He is the most influential songwriter of his time. He brought a new depth, range and complexity to rock lyrics. Those freed Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell and countless other artists to break out from the once-narrow boundaries of love and dance songs.
Dylan already was the only rock star to receive a Pulitzer Prize (an honorary one). And he is, in fact, an author, too. He was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle prize. That was for his memoir, "Chronicles: Volume One."
He is the first American to win the Nobel literature prize since Morrison in 1993.
Dylan's life has been a mix of popular and literary influences. He is a native of Duluth, Minnesota. As a boy, he looked up to Elvis Presley and James Dean. He also read a lot and seemed to absorb virtually every style of American music.
His lyrics have referred to (and sometimes lifted from) the Bible, Civil War poetry and Herman Melville. He has contended that his classic "Blood on the Tracks" album was inspired by the stories of Anton Chekhov.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are Dylan's lyrics considered “literature?”
Write your answers in the comments section below