Bob Dylan is the 2016 Nobel laureate in literature
October 13, 2016 4:06 AM   Subscribe

The Swedish Academy has given Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize in literature.
posted by Kattullus (262 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is this real?
posted by medusa at 4:10 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


triumph of the "cool" teachers
posted by thelonius at 4:11 AM on October 13, 2016 [34 favorites]


Well, I guess that's their way of saying these days you're better off reading Bob Dylan lyrics than hearing him sing them.
posted by lmfsilva at 4:13 AM on October 13, 2016 [17 favorites]


To me his best work isn’t really literature (being primarily communicated via song & speech rather than writing), and his literature isn’t really his best work. But I’m enough of a fan to be pleased anyway.
posted by misteraitch at 4:14 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


This was just to annoy Morrissey wasn't it
posted by crocomancer at 4:15 AM on October 13, 2016 [69 favorites]


Huh. Genuinely surprising. But cool.

*wanders off to listen to Blood on the Tracks*
posted by frumiousb at 4:19 AM on October 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


jesus christ
posted by edeezy at 4:22 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


To me his best work isn’t really literature

I think his work is literature in the form of poetry. The lyrics still have value without the tune. I know people who can sing every word of an LP they bought when they were sixteen, yet would fumble to name any literary poets.

is it too late for bowie
posted by adept256 at 4:22 AM on October 13, 2016 [16 favorites]


"The sun's not yellow it's chicken."

Classic!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:22 AM on October 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


I guess the hangin' judge was drunk.
posted by chavenet at 4:23 AM on October 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


this is trump's fault
posted by edeezy at 4:26 AM on October 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Speaking as someone who had Dylan songs sung to me as lullabies when I was a child, I'm very happy. Though I'm not objective I still think that his best works are genuinely great literature.
posted by Kattullus at 4:30 AM on October 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


Who won best pants?
posted by clavdivs at 4:31 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


clavdivs: "Who won best pants?"

The Nobel-bottoms.
posted by chavenet at 4:33 AM on October 13, 2016 [24 favorites]


He has so many different types of song, even if you don't like them much it's just amazing that such variety should emerge from one voice and that alone makes them 'literature' in a way - the protest/Guthrie songs, the early melancholic tender folk ones, the angry petulant lover ones from 1964-6, the psychedelic ones, the straight blues ones, the talking blues-rap ones, the apocalyptic mega ones, the novelty ones, the desolate, ashy ones, the epic story ones from the 70s, the devout ones... even the dreadful ones (of which there are very, very many). Keep rolling.
posted by Coda Tronca at 4:35 AM on October 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


adept256: is it too late for bowie

In the post-announcement interview on the Nobel Prize website, Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, came out as a Bowie fan. I got the feeling that she was still hurting a little bit thinking about him.

Also, when asked whether the Academy was expanding the definition of literature she referred to the Greek poets of antiquity, who wrote songs (indeed "lyric" comes from instrument "lyre" that they used).
posted by Kattullus at 4:38 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


He deserved this. I am enthused at the news.
posted by y2karl at 4:41 AM on October 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


All those Dylan jokers on the internet today should give some serious thought to how music lyrics today are how most people experience literary culture.

Having said that, I view this as some masterful trolling by Christopher Ricks who kickstarted the whole re-evaluation of Dylan as a poet. Ricks argued that Dylan continued the whole hi/low culture instigated by TS Eliot's High Modernism phase (I mainly came for the Eliot angle, didn't stay for the Dylan thing, sorry) and arguably got the ball rolling on reading musicians of the 1960s and 1970s as poets.

Ricks must be cackling today.
posted by kariebookish at 4:41 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is more than deserved. His writing is superb poetry that has shaped multiple generations of writers of all forms. And his form of communicating it, through music just as magnificent as his poetry, is both ancient (the lyric poetry of Ancient Greece) and completely new.

I first read, rather than heard, Bob Dylan - we analyzed the lyrics of "Highway 61 Revisited" in a middle-school literature class. I loved him from that very first moment and ever since.
posted by sallybrown at 4:43 AM on October 13, 2016 [17 favorites]


music lyrics today are how most people experience literary culture.

Not sure, I think most people experience literary culture more through internet memes and bantz now.
posted by Coda Tronca at 4:43 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Now hear this Robert Zimmerman
Though I don't suppose we'll meet
Ask your good friend Dylan
If he'd gaze a while
Down the old street
Tell him we've lost his poems
So they're writing on the walls
Give us back our unity
Give us back our family
You're every nation's refugee
Don't leave us with their sanity
—"Song for Bob Dylan"
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:46 AM on October 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Dylan is fine, but if this is the first Nobel prize for literature to be handed out to a songwriter there's better lyricists to get the ball rolling. If it weren't for the no posthumous awards rule, Porter or Gershwin natch, of the 60s geezers I'd put Coen or Sondheim before Bob, and yeah probably Bowie too. This just seems like boomers having a last grasp at their cultural hegemony, which, sure, whatever, have it, but it's kinda silly.
posted by threecheesetrees at 4:46 AM on October 13, 2016 [30 favorites]


About a week ago, the NYTIMES nightly briefing asked "Have we reached peak crazy?" At the time, I thought of Betteridge's law of headlines. But now I'm comfortable at least entertaining the question.

May 2017 be less bizarre.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:47 AM on October 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


It could be worse. I saw his name included in an NPR Breaking News header in my inbox this morning and assumed it was a death announcement in the middle of Already The Worst Year Ever For This, For Crissakes.
posted by blue suede stockings at 4:47 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


In 2015, Alex Shepard wrote that if Bob Dylan won the Nobel, he'd eat his copy of Blood on the Tracks.

He just tweeted this image.
posted by waitingtoderail at 4:48 AM on October 13, 2016 [20 favorites]


Suck it, Philip Roth and Don DeLillo.
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:50 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


The times, they are a-changin.
posted by Segundus at 4:55 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well I'll be darned (she says, quite pleased).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:55 AM on October 13, 2016


Fuck it this is great. Sure it's kinda silly Boomer-stroking but his music has brought a lot more joy to a lot more people than Philip Roth (bleh) or something.

My toddler, who went through a period demanding that she hear the song she's named after while gazing at a "Ba Diln--POUTING" picture on Spotify while it plays, will be delighted if she had any idea what a nobel prize is. She's more of a Blonde On Blonde fan anyway.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:55 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Doktor Zed: "Suck it, Philip Roth and Don DeLillo."

On the other hand, this may be (sadly) the closest Thomas Pynchon ever gets to Swedish gold, given his six-degrees relationship by commodius vicus of recirculation with Dylan via Richard Fariña, married to Mimi Baez, sister of Joan.
posted by chavenet at 4:56 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


If you give a peace prize to Stalin and Kissinger, why not make it even with a literature prize to the author of Masters of War?
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:00 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


In 2015, Alex Shepard wrote that if Bob Dylan won the Nobel, he'd eat his copy of Blood on the Tracks.

I made a similar commitment when someone told me Bono was nominated for the Nobel peace prize. I think I would have been allowed to take my shades off by now, I think it was 2005.
posted by adept256 at 5:04 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you've never understood the Dylan mania because you're put off by his voice, here are some of my favorite covers of his songs:

Nina Simone, I Shall Be Released
Lucius, When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky
Stevie Wonder, Blowin' in the Wind
Brothers & Sisters gospel choir, Mr. Tambourine Man and The Times They Are A-Changing
Adele, Make You Feel My Love

More at Rolling Stone
posted by sallybrown at 5:05 AM on October 13, 2016 [33 favorites]


With respect to Charles Mingus and Charlie Parker, if Bob Dylan was a gunslinger, there'd be a whole lot of dead copycats.
posted by Kinbote at 5:06 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Heard this on the way into work; great start to the day. 538.com looks reassuring too. I guess the rest of my day will be all downhill from here.
posted by TedW at 5:07 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Obscure Reference: If you give a peace prize to Stalin

Stalin was nominated, but never received it. The nominations are very open and all kinds of terrible people have been nominated. Also, different institutions handle the various Nobel Prizes. the Peace Prize winner is chosen by the Norwegian parliament, and the Literature Prize by the Swedish Academy.
posted by Kattullus at 5:07 AM on October 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Meanwhile out by the railroad tracks, a hobo awards a can of beans to Tom Waits.
posted by JHarris at 5:10 AM on October 13, 2016 [35 favorites]


That's a great idea! Let's share tributes. Here's Rage Against The Machine doing Maggie's Farm.
posted by adept256 at 5:10 AM on October 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


This is the best Dylan cover sorry to end this early. Emmylou Harris: When I Paint My Masterpiece
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:14 AM on October 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Hell yes.
posted by infini at 5:16 AM on October 13, 2016


I'm not a fan so it is hard for me to see this as other than a nod to the boomers, though in reality Dylan's influence is a lot broader than that.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:17 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, there's one good thing to come out of this shitty year.
posted by Etrigan at 5:24 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


No love for Hendrix? "All Along the Watchtower" and "Like a Rolling Stone". Bonus: Watchmen.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:25 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Poor boy in a red hot town
Out beyond the twinklin' stars
Ridin' first class trains, making the rounds
Tryin' to keep from fallin' between the cars
posted by y2karl at 5:26 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Time to start working on an Emmy and a Tony, so Dylan can become the first NEGOT.
posted by schmod at 5:26 AM on October 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Well done, Bob!

The range, the influence, the poetry -- this is well deserved recognition of a tremendous body of work that hardly anyone has ever equalled. Anyone who can rhyme 'January' with 'Buenos Aires' should win a Nobel for that alone.
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:28 AM on October 13, 2016


Actually, the peace prize is not given out by the Norwegian parliament, but by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which only consists of former members of the Norwegian parliament.

This distinction was also lost on the Chinese in 2010.
posted by Spiegel at 5:29 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


2017. Murakami Haruki watches the livecast as the prize goes to the man who invented the crossword.
2018. Murakami Haruki watches the livecast as the prize goes to You, The Reader.
2019. Murakami Haruki watches the livecast as the prize goes to a torn piece of newspaper with FUCK U HARUKI written on it.
posted by No-sword at 5:30 AM on October 13, 2016 [67 favorites]


To be fair, Morrissey just has to stay alive for 15-20 more years and he's a shoo-in. Or at least he world have been, had he not written List Of The Lost.
posted by acb at 5:30 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sounds like literature to me. Now CRANK THAT LITERATURE!
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:34 AM on October 13, 2016


No-sword, I think this is good news for Murakami because it makes it harder to say he's too pop. (I wish he'd write a decent novel again though.)

The only downside I can see to Dylan getting it is that it makes it less likely they'll find the time to give it to Philip Roth.
posted by Mocata at 5:36 AM on October 13, 2016


I'm not unhappy with the idea (and the world breathed a collective sigh of relief, right?), but I guess I am a little confused. The definition of literature is a bit broader than I imagined.
posted by Mooski at 5:36 AM on October 13, 2016


I put on "Whiny Bob" for my 4 year old to eat breakfast to, take a quick peek at the internet, and ... whaaaa?

But why not, I say? The times, they are a changin'.
posted by RedOrGreen at 5:40 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


2016, you have redeemed yourself.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:41 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm reminded by this decision of the New Literary History of America 2009 by Greil Marcus which caused a lot of waves by re-defining literature much more broadly. The scope of "literature" - and thus what is worthy of scholarship, research funding (and tenure) - encompasses so much more - and to have external validation of a more popular culture media such as comics, serial fiction, or in this case the "great American song tradition" - continually dismissed as low-brow by those in the ivory tower is a shot across the bow of the "literature is the great novel" camp! Bravo Academy, Bravo.
posted by mfoight at 5:44 AM on October 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Please stop comparing Morrissey to Dylan or I may have to commit hari kari.
posted by jonmc at 5:47 AM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


a shot across the bow of the "literature is the great novel" camp!

Well, you know, I'm not tied to the definition, it's just the one I was always given. Progressives gonna progress, am I right?

One thing 2016 can definitely be called is 'educational.' Been a mixed bag, for sure.
posted by Mooski at 5:49 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


This news makes me wish my dad--a man who loved rock-and-roll poets and who took me to see Dylan and Patti Smith when I was a senior in high school--was still alive.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:52 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well deserved.
posted by kyrademon at 5:53 AM on October 13, 2016


Bout damn time.
posted by Bob Regular at 5:53 AM on October 13, 2016


Dynamite!
posted by fairmettle at 5:53 AM on October 13, 2016


Please stop comparing Morrissey to Dylan or I may have to commit hari kari.

Well, at least it wasn't Jim Morrison.
posted by y2karl at 5:54 AM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


If you've never understood the Dylan mania because you're put off by his voice...

I'm not bothered by pop music as literature, or the sound of bagpipes and/or bob dylan's voice... but I've always thought his lyrics were stupid. He writes doggerel verse, which is really hard to sustain, and he mainly switches between a kind of pop automatic-surrealism, which is empty, and translated black-american blues motifs, which are a pose without any pretense of real experience.

but the saddest thing is imagining some Norwegian kid, smoking dope and listening to dylan in the seventies, then putting on a suit for 40 years until they find themselves on the Nobel committee...
posted by ennui.bz at 5:56 AM on October 13, 2016 [17 favorites]


The only literature nobel prize winner who I respect as a prize winner is Sartre.

So far.
posted by bukvich at 5:57 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


And once again, Ngugi wa Thiong'o misses out.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:57 AM on October 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Have Bob Dylan's lyrics not been thought provoking? Has he squeezed by and traditionally bubblegum pop? His lyrics have spanned Generations, spoken of all walks of life, challenged social injustice, praise the Americana and denounced political Liars. His music has spanned the globe crying for peace and elevating social morality. If that is not the job of the Nobel Prize in literature, I don't know what is.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:01 AM on October 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


Puts an interesting new complexion on this Norm Macdonald story about the time he hung out with Dylan.
We went back to the house and Dylan poured two cups of black coffee and we each drank coffee.

And that is when Bob Dylan began speaking about being a writer. He said most "writers" were what he called "stenographers".

He would put a record on his player and have me listen to it. He would have me silently read a passage from a classic book.

Then Bob Dylan would explain why this was not writing, why it was stenography.

One piece of fiction he had me read was one of my favorites.

I saw that I had been wrong about one of my favorite pieces of fiction. Bob Dylan showed me how I had been deceived.

I told him that I understood, but I did not, and I lied to Bob Dylan.A week later, I understood, and phoned him and explained and he laughed

I don't want to say what Bob Dylan said to me but one thing that he gave me permission to tell my friends was, "Don't be fooled by typists."
posted by Iridic at 6:02 AM on October 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


He writes doggerel verse, which is really hard to sustain, and he mainly switches between a kind of pop automatic-surrealism, which is empty, and translated black-american blues motifs, which are a pose without any pretense of real experience.
Once I held mountains
In the palm of my hand
Rivers that ran through
Every day
Oh, man, don't get me started -- I can do this all week...
posted by y2karl at 6:05 AM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Masters of War is my favorite.
posted by bjgeiger at 6:06 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I saw that I had been wrong about one of my favorite pieces of fiction. Bob Dylan showed me how I had been deceived.

I told him that I understood, but I did not, and I lied to Bob Dylan.A week later, I understood, and phoned him and explained and he laughed


The thing with Norm McDonald is that I can never tell when he's being legitimately serious vs. doing another bit.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:06 AM on October 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


Can’t you feel that sun a-shining?
Ground hog running by the country stream
This must be the day that all of my dreams come true
— "New Morning."
posted by octobersurprise at 6:07 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


He's no Svetlana Alexievich.
posted by escabeche at 6:10 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


He writes doggerel verse, which is really hard to sustain, and he mainly switches between a kind of pop automatic-surrealism, which is empty, and translated black-american blues motifs, which are a pose without any pretense of real experience.

This is true of some of his lyrics, but he's had so many more voices. Even when he did that stuff most in the mid-60s he had his tongue half in his cheek as well.

By contrast some of his masterpiece songs about relationships are not surrealist or blues-based at all; they're in fact quite plain and the best of them feel almost too intimate, too intense, too sick with rage and grief and hopelessness to even be made public, e.g. from the epic yet intensely personal 'Idiot Wind':

"I can't feel you anymore!
I can't even TOUCH the BOOKS you've READ!"

posted by Coda Tronca at 6:12 AM on October 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


He's no Svetlana Alexievich.

Not sure what this means? The world needs more than one kind of artist. I'm pretty sure I've actually listened to Dylan while reading "Zinky Boys".

When you give out one award to an entire world, scattershot and heterogenous is actually the best approach.
posted by selfnoise at 6:18 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


bjgeiger: "Masters of War is my favorite."

Eddie Vedder did my favorite version at Dylan's 30th anniversary concert.
posted by octothorpe at 6:19 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wow. The times - they really are a-changin'!
posted by New Frontier at 6:20 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


In this discussion about what literature is in relation to lyrical music, I'm reminded of a classic from my generation:

“It [YVAN EHT NIOJ] doesn't mean anything! It's like 'ramalamadingdong' or 'give peace a chance'!”
posted by adept256 at 6:21 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Doesn't the prize come with a decent chunk of money attached? I wander what Dylan would do with that, he's hardly the starving artist.
posted by Dr Dracator at 6:27 AM on October 13, 2016


Am I the only one who saw the photo before they read the headline on a major news outlet and reflexively started crying, because they thought it was going to be his obit? This news is a heck of a lot better.
posted by sockermom at 6:30 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Doesn't the prize come with a decent chunk of money attached? I wander what Dylan would do with that,

Dylan sort of slowly, continuously goes from one gig to the next now so I honestly think his use for actual Earth money is limited. I imagine he is a bit like the Beatles were apocryphally in London in the mid-60s: they apparently used to go out to clubs and gigs and restaurants with no money in their pockets, like the Queen, because nobody would ever charge them for anything anyway.
posted by Coda Tronca at 6:33 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't help but wonder what the dude who yelled "Judas" is thinking.

FYI: His name is Keith Butler, and he talks about the incident in this 1999 interview.
posted by Gordion Knott at 6:33 AM on October 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


He'll donate it. Surely. He's not hurting for coin is he? Not that badly. He can crash on my sofa before he has to go hat in hand to the Nobel.
posted by adept256 at 6:34 AM on October 13, 2016


It seems like once you get to people of a certain level of achievement, it's hard to pick among them "fairly".

Doris Lessing won the Nobel. Now, I'm a huge Doris Lessing fan, but she was no formal experimentalist and she was not known for the beauty of her prose. She won, I assume, based on a vast body of work which expresses political concerns (particularly women's concerns) over the second half of the 20th century, and which documents the texture of certain life experiences that were left out prior to her work, plus some experiments with genre. But you could easily say, why Lessing and not DeLillo or Pynchon, why Lessing and not Atwood, why Lessing and not Delany (actually, that's the one I really wonder about, since he does all that she does and more, and is a very fine writer besides).

I've never really gotten into Dylan, but he seems to me a very unusual kind of songwriter and performer, and his work is obviously enormously significant. I think it's reasonable that, based on those facts, he be given the Nobel, if it's going to go to any late-career popular musician.
posted by Frowner at 6:39 AM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Doesn't the prize come with a decent chunk of money attached? I wander what Dylan would do with that, he's hardly the starving artist.

Hopefully buy some new Christmas lights.

Love you, Bob!
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:40 AM on October 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


My husband wooed me in large part by singing Dylan songs (Dylan is one of my mom's favorite artists and I grew up with a lot of Dylan in the house, so it is nostalgia for me), and one of my favorites is Tangled Up in Blue. And he (my husband) sings the version off of the Bootleg tapes rather than the album version, which has some different pronouns. It took me a while to figure out what was different from the version I was most familiar with, but those pronoun changes ("he" gets swapped for "I" in various places such that the song winds up having an extra character) are fascinating.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:45 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


she was no formal experimentalist and she was not known for the beauty of her prose

One person's opinion here, but I really loved The Golden Notebook
posted by thivaia at 6:45 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


...he's hardly the starving artist.

You never know. He didn't show much negotiating skill against Michael Diamond, and his trade of an Andy Warhol for a couch wasn't so hot, either.

Love you, Bob!
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:49 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


To paratweet someone: Reporting on Dylan Nobel, NPR Morning Edition plays samples strictly from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and The Times, They are a-Changing , 1st and 3rd of nearly 40 albums, first 2 or 3 years of nearly 60 so far. Have yet to make it to Mr. Tambourine Man. Sad!
posted by y2karl at 6:52 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Looks like Ted Nugent's nomination didn't get very far.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:56 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


but the saddest thing is imagining some Norwegian kid, smoking dope and listening to dylan in the seventies, then putting on a suit for 40 years until they find themselves on the Nobel committee...

Not sad at all. Imaginary Norwegian kid really loved Dylan, undertook the long march through the institutions, and then, one day, gave his hero the Nobel. Maybe not what I would've done, but hurrah for Imaginary Norwegian kid, says I.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:59 AM on October 13, 2016 [7 favorites]




One person's opinion here, but I really loved The Golden Notebook

Yeah, I mean, I love that book too, but it's not really formally experimental - the whole "here are excerpts from the notebook for the breakdown" part isn't new at all. Anna is experimenting with prose, but the book only describes her experimentation. It's like a realistic painting of David Wojnarowicz making a collage.

It's a terrific book that does a lot of new stuff in terms of writing about women's experiences and writing about physical experience (when Anna plans her day and thinks about dealing with menstruation and work, for instance).

My feeling is much more that if one is going to say "only formal experimentalists who change how a form works deserve the Nobel, and only people who are explicitly working in avant-garde ways" (Pynchon, Delillo) you would argue against Lessing getting the Nobel, and that would be both sexist and foolish, IMO.
posted by Frowner at 7:02 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ricks must be cackling today.

I was in a few of his seminars at BU - dude must be doing cartwheels.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:02 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


EGOT is small time.

Bob Dylan is the first NGOP.*

*Nobel - Grammy - Oscar - Pulitzer
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:06 AM on October 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


Looks like Ted Nugent's nomination didn't get very far.

The committee must not have listened to the live version of "Wango Tango":

You got to pretend your face is a Maserati
It's a Maserati
It's a Maserati
It's a gettin' hotty
It's a Maserati, Maserati, Maserati
It's a fast one too man, that thing's turbocharged
You feel like a little fuel injection honey?
I'll tell ya about it, I'll tell you about it
I'll check out the hood scoop
I gotta get that hood scoop off, shine and shine and buff
I gotta buff it up, buff it up, buff it up, buff it up, buff it up,
Yeah, shiny now baby, heh heh heh
You've been drivin' all night long
It's time to put the old Maserati away
So you look for a garage, you think you see a garage
Wait a minute, Hey!, there's one up ahead
And the damn thing's open
Hello! Get in there!
posted by 445supermag at 7:07 AM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Bob Dylan invented punk rock

Punk rock is eternal. If you want to find the origins of punk, you have to look into our development as a social animal. People have been punk forever. Bob may be a modern day example, but that instinct goes way back into prehistory.
posted by adept256 at 7:08 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Bob Dylan is the first NGOP.*

*Nobel - Grammy - Oscar - Pulitzer


Was the Oscar for his role in 80s classic Hearts of Fire?
posted by Coda Tronca at 7:10 AM on October 13, 2016


Leonard Cohen next please.
posted by aclevername at 7:11 AM on October 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


So much dismissiveness here. Your favourite Nobel Prize winner sucks.

Don't ever change, Metafilter. Don't ever change.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:11 AM on October 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


Bob Dylan is the first NGOP

PONG, surely.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:15 AM on October 13, 2016 [18 favorites]


To be fair, Morrissey just has to stay alive for 15-20 more years and he's a shoo-in

Much as I admire Morrissey at his best, there are probably good health and safety reasons not to give a prize like this to such a narcissist. Like, you wouldn't tell Werner Herzog he's been declared God-Emperor of the world or something, it's not sensible.
posted by iotic at 7:18 AM on October 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


Great, now Morrissey is turning into a sandworm. Good job Nobel committee.
posted by selfnoise at 7:19 AM on October 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


I told a teacher once that I didn't like poetry. He responded to that with, "Well, do you like music with lyrics?" I nodded. "That's just a kind of poetry," he explained, and promptly blew my fourteen-year old brain.

So, I've had a grudging respect for poetry ever since. And I'm glad that Bob Dylan is getting some recognition for his writing--my parents are big fans. (I still think he can't sing very well, though.)
posted by PearlRose at 7:21 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Please note it is the Swedish Academy that awards the Nobel Prize of literature. Nothing to do with your imaginary Norwegians.
posted by kariebookish at 7:25 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Speaking of Nobel laureates, Dario Fo died. Which is sad, but at the same time, he was 90, lived a good life and did good things for the world.
posted by Frowner at 7:35 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


PONG, surely.

I was leaning towards GNOP.
posted by fairmettle at 7:36 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, I did not realize that Dylan wrote "I Shall Be Released". That's one hell of a song. Nina Simone's cover is one of my favorite recordings of anything of all time.
posted by Frowner at 7:38 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


What the fuck. Were they so desperate to give the award to a white man that they had to find some creeky baby boomer?

Is this meant seriously?
posted by Coda Tronca at 7:41 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I can't help but wonder what the dude who yelled "Judas" is thinking.
FYI: His name is Keith Butler, and he talks about the incident in this 1999 interview.


Yeah, I'd like to hear too. (Keith Bulter died n 2002). (0bit)
posted by Mister Bijou at 7:43 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I, too, thought it a joke when I first read the headline. I had recently read that Dylan has been a perpetual nominee, and his odds were 100-1. I think it's a wonderful move on the part of the Nobel Committee, especially in terms of broadening the definition of literature (or returning to its original bardic roots, as spokespeople remind us). And there's no other songwriter who wordsmiths like Robert Zimmerman. (Although after a concert of his a couple years ago, I wanted my money back. I used to like his voice just fine, but it's shot now. I couldn't hear a word he was croaking. And he played piano all night, not really his instrument.)

As far a Haruki Murakami goes, he'll have to do better than his most recent novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I'm a hard-core Murakami addict, but that one was a little lame.
posted by kozad at 7:45 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


And he played piano all night, not really his instrument

It isn't, but he plays it because his arthritis is apparently too bad for the guitar now.
posted by Coda Tronca at 7:48 AM on October 13, 2016


That's a great idea! Let's share tributes.

Okey dokey.

Check out Tim O'Brien's Red on Blonde album. I'm particularly fond of his covers of:

Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power) and The Wicked Messenger

Not to be missed from that album is his version of Masters of War.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:54 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is this meant seriously ?

He's invisible now, he's got no secret to conceal...
posted by y2karl at 8:00 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just some pieces of one of my favorite pieces of literature.

The Gates Of Eden

With a time-rusted compass blade
Aladdin and his lamp
Sits with Utopian hermit monks
Side saddle on the Golden Calf
And on their promises of paradise
You will not hear a laugh
All except inside the Gates of Eden.

Relationships of ownership
They whisper in the wings
To those condemned to act accordingly
And wait for succeeding kings
And I will try to harmonize with songs
The lonesome sparrow sings
There are no kings inside the Gates of Eden.


At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what's true
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden.

Bob Dylan
posted by Oyéah at 8:01 AM on October 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


The news that Nobel Prize for Literature (2016) has been awarded to Bob Dylan is great news. Cheered me up no end.

That's a great idea! Let's share tributes.

Nina Simone: ''Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues''
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:04 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love Bob Dylan and think he's written a lot of great songs over the years. I think his writing has entered the public discourse more than most contemporary authors, and I don't see why he doesn't deserve this reward. For me, this is a highlight of the year. I went to see Dylan with my mom 6 years ago, and its still my favorite concert I've gone to. Yea, his voice is shot, but when he and his band roared into Ballad of a Thin Man it blew me away.
posted by airish at 8:07 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Andrew Bird's cover of Oh Sister sounds so much like an Andrew Bird song that I didn't realize that it was actually a cover for a while.

There's something especially flexible and durable about Dylan's songs. If Nina Simone AND Guns n' Roses can make your songs their own you're doing something right. Tom Waits has a similar talent.
posted by selfnoise at 8:09 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


From, Mr. Tambourine Man

Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Bob Dylan
posted by Oyéah at 8:10 AM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Not even wrong.
posted by Zerowensboring at 8:12 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


From "It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)":

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in

The Duhks did a great version a few years ago.
posted by octothorpe at 8:19 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am so glad we are talking about him while he is still alive! When my husband said his name this morning, I braced for bad news. And the first one now will later be last
posted by soelo at 8:20 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Jim James and Calexico, Goin' to Acapulco.

I was actually humming this song to myself this morning on the way to work when I heard the news on the radio. I'm very surprised, but I also think it's deeply cool and find myself utterly delighted for Dylan.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:22 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, arguments over his best lyrics aside, I'm just glad the committee finally gave some recognition to this underappreciated artist.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 8:22 AM on October 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Spiegel: "Actually, the peace prize is not given out by the Norwegian parliament, but by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which only consists of former members of the Norwegian parliament. "
When you're trying to correct someone, please do read the links you're throwing at them. Two of the five current members of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee (Syse and Reiss-Andersen) have never been members of the Norwegian Parliament. The members are appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, though.
ennui.bz: "but the saddest thing is imagining some Norwegian kid, smoking dope and listening to dylan in the seventies, then putting on a suit for 40 years until they find themselves on the Nobel committee..."
The Nobel prize for literature is awarded by the Swedish Academy goddammit.
posted by brokkr at 8:23 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Lyrics are poetry; poetry is literature.

I'm fine with this.
posted by chonus at 8:23 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


kozad: "I, too, thought it a joke when I first read the headline. I had recently read that Dylan has been a perpetual nominee, and his odds were 100-1."
Unlike the Nobel Peace Prize, there are no official nominees for Literature (or any of the other four prizes, as far as I know). Go back and read the Alex Shepard article waitingtoderail posted, it has some background on the betting aspect as well.
posted by brokkr at 8:25 AM on October 13, 2016


Excellent and well recognized. My outside-the-box hope for the next American winner was Le Guin, but I'm happy about this, too.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 8:27 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Leonard Cohen, I think, is much more, how to put it, self-consciously "literary" (ie., knowingly working within a tradition) than Dylan, but on the whole, Hell Yeah! Philip Roth can be so much more puerile than a poet like Dylan would ever dream of being.

I like Dylan's singing and phrasing, but I understand why many wouldn't. My argument to the nay-sayers would go along the lines of "How could that voice have become so popular if it weren't singing something great?"
posted by Chitownfats at 8:37 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


This and Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize confirm my suspicions that the Nobel committee are trolling.
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 8:40 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


2016 continues to be a fucking surreal year.
posted by tavella at 8:40 AM on October 13, 2016


In the summer of 1964 I was barely a teenager, but my life had already been pretty weird- multiple countries and languages, living on my own at ten, schizophrenic mother, etc. We were spending a few weeks in a beach town while my father looked for an apartment in Washington, DC, for us. Hanging out on the boardwalk one night I met a boy a couple of years older than me who was dressed like the older kids I'd seen wandering around around Greenwich Village that spring. It turned out that he went to the same school I was going to enter in DC that fall. He started talking about some singer called Bob Dylan, and promised to lend me one of his records when school started.

School started and he lent me Freewheelin'. I dragged my parents' record player into my room and played it, and played it, and played it. I remember feeling less alone in the world; there were other people out there who were somehow more like me than the people I knew already.

My father hated the music I played. He pretty much hated anything I liked. I wonder what he's thinking today.

I was not the idolizing kind, didn't put pictures of Dylan on my wall, didn't even try to find a way to see him play. I did acquire his records as they came out. I few years later I had the great luck to stumble uninvited into a small party at Peter Yarrow's house; I didn't know him or anyone else there. Someone at another New Year's Eve party earlier that night had given me a bag of weed. I shared it with Yarrow and his guests: Dylan, members of The Band, the actor Michael Pollard, and a handful of other people. Dylan's wife Sara was regal. Yarrow's wife kept trying to chase everyone out, politely. After we shared the weed the instruments came out and they jammed for 2 hours or so. Dylan didn't sing, but he suggested songs and played the guitar.
posted by mareli at 8:43 AM on October 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


"Tell them to give it to Donovan."
posted by Lorin at 8:44 AM on October 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Now Bruce Springsteen just has to live another 20 years or so.
posted by Etrigan at 8:47 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well deserved.
Poetry is literature and lyrics are poetry. The cultural influence of Dylan's lyrics are undeniable.

The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place

posted by rocket88 at 8:56 AM on October 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Seconding Mandolin Conspiracy's recommendation upthread for Tim O'Brien's album of Dylan covers, Red on Blonde. Some excellent tracks, with my personal favorite cut being his faster take on Señor (Tales of Yankee Power) that's very, very good.

Also, feel like I might as well link to my favorite Dylan cover. Legion of Mary, featuring Jerry Garcia, recorded 05-21-75: Tough Mama

As for Dylan getting the Nobel - I'm OK with this.

"Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow."

Good stuff.
posted by mosk at 8:56 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's a beautiful article in the New Yorker on Leonard Cohen (deserves a post of its own) but in it Bob talks at length about songwriting (and Leonard). It's a great insight on how Bob deals with his craft.
posted by Ber at 8:57 AM on October 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Unlike the Nobel Peace Prize, there are no official nominees for Literature (or any of the other four prizes, as far as I know).
The Nobel Committee for Literature at the Swedish Academy is responsible for the selection of candidates for the Literature Prize from the names submitted for consideration by qualified nominators, who have been invited through formal letters.
posted by Etrigan at 9:00 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift. Look out kid, it's something you did, God knows when, but you're doing it again.

Just one more, then I will leave this alone. Mr. Dylan's poetry has accompanied my soul down the length of my life. I am joyful about this choice. He is more representative of the artist's life, and the creative passions that drive a life, than many who find acclaim after striving. He is in his way representative of the freedoms we enjoy in this country including freedom of much more than speech.


"Chimes Of Freedom"

Far between sundown's finish an' midnight's broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An' for each an' ev'ry underdog soldier in the night
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

In the city's melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden as the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin' rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an' forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin' constantly at stake
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An' the poet an the painter far behind his rightful time
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

In the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an' blind, tolling for the mute
For the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an' cheated by pursuit
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Even though a clouds's white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An' the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An' for each unharmfull, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Starry-eyed an' laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an' we watched with one last look
Spellbound an' swallowed 'til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse
An' for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
posted by Oyéah at 9:12 AM on October 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


He writes doggerel verse, which is really hard to sustain, and he mainly switches between a kind of pop automatic-surrealism, which is empty, and translated black-american blues motifs, which are a pose without any pretense of real experience.

If your idea is that Bob Dylan = Ogden Nash, well, first off, Ogden Nash is awesome. But more importantly, if you think that anyone, old or young, who's white and commonly thought of as an exemplar of popular music is not just transmuting "black-american blues motifs ... without any pretense of real experience," I'd like to hear who you think that is.

I get chills and thrills every time I listen to "From a Buick 6" -- every single time, and I must have listened a hundred times if not a thousand. I can only imagine what it must have been like to listen to it for the first time the year it was released. I'm sure he can take it or leave it, but kudos to Bob Dylan on the well-deserved honor.
posted by blucevalo at 9:12 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


OK, one more favorite Dylan cover: Ballad of a Thin Man, Grateful Dead, Hampton, VA - 3/27/1988
posted by mosk at 9:13 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Richie Havens performing License to Kill, one of countless favorites of mine.
posted by frobozz at 9:13 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


One day my English teacher had the class bring in their favorite lyrics to read as poetry. I was 14, really into Pink Floyd, especially Roger Waters' lyrics, and brought in Wish You Were Here, sure that the class would be similarly moved ("two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl" right?). Others also presented songs by artists they loved.

The teacher brought in Boots of Spanish Leather and that was it. Of course I had heard Bob Dylan but I didn't know there was this other world of meaning and poetry within the music, that a song's words could hold so much depth, color, and humanity. It made me feel like I had been listening to kid stuff.

What's strange to me now is that this was my experience in 1988, years after Dylan had made his impact felt on the music world, and still almost everything that I was exposed to by other artists didn't hold a candle, lyrically, to Boots of Spanish Leather. And it's still the case now -- the best songwriters seem timidly competent by comparison.
posted by swift at 9:19 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


But more importantly, if you think that anyone, old or young, who's white and commonly thought of as an exemplar of popular music is not just transmuting "black-american blues motifs ... without any pretense of real experience," I'd like to hear who you think that is.

OK ...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:25 AM on October 13, 2016


He's actually an amazingly innovative singer as well.

Two examples that spring to mind are a) he invented his own melodic phrase ending, the Dylan Cadential Fourth that was the subject of its own AskMe a while back, and b) I just went back and had a listen to Idiot Wind on Blood on the Tracks and realised he decided to sing the entire thing out of tune to make a point that supports the lyrics. The demo versions aren't like that.
posted by Coda Tronca at 9:34 AM on October 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Bertrand Russell got one. Churchill got one. If you can give a literature prize to an analytic philosopher and a politician, why not to a musician?

I hope they go back to books next year tho.
posted by no mind at 9:34 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Farewell Angelina
The bells of the crown
Are being stolen by bandits
I must follow the sound
The triangle tingles
And the trumpets play slow
Farewell Angelina
The sky is on fire
And I must go

There’s no need for anger
There’s no need for blame
There’s nothing to prove
Ev’rything’s still the same
Just a table standing empty
By the edge of the sea
Farewell Angelina
The sky is trembling
And I must leave

The jacks and the queens
Have forsaked the courtyard
Fifty-two gypsies
Now file past the guards
In the space where the deuce
And the ace once ran wild
Farewell Angelina
The sky is folding
I’ll see you in a while

See the cross-eyed pirates sitting
Perched in the sun
Shooting tin cans
With a sawed-off shotgun
And the neighbors they clap
And they cheer with each blast
Farewell Angelina
The sky’s changing color
And I must leave fast

King Kong little elves
On the rooftops they dance
Valentino-type tangos
While the makeup man’s hands
Shut the eyes of the dead
Not to embarrass anyone
Farewell Angelina
The sky is embarrassed
And I must be gone

The machine guns are roaring
The puppets heave rocks
The fiends nail time bombs
To the hands of the clocks
Call me any name you like
I will never deny it
Farewell Angelina
The sky is erupting
I must go where it’s quiet
posted by y2karl at 9:45 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Here's my contribution to the list of covers. If you don't like Bob's voice, you probably won't like this either. Ramblin' Jack Elliot - Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
posted by Lorin at 9:52 AM on October 13, 2016


From "Up to Me"

Oh, the union central is pullin' out
The orchids are in bloom
I've only got me one good shirt left and it smells of stale perfume
In fourteen months I've only smiled once and I didn't do it consciously
Somebody's got to find your trail
I guess it must be up to me

...

I met somebody face to face and I had to remove my hat
She's everything I need and love but I can't be swayed by that
It frightens me, the awful truth of how sweet life can be
But she ain't a-gonna make me move, I guess it must be up to me

...

If we never meet again, baby, remember me
How my lone guitar played sweet for you that old-time melody
And the harmonica around my neck, I blew it for you, free
No one else could play that tune, you know it was up to me
posted by ericost at 9:57 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Joan Baez, covering Angelina.
posted by Oyéah at 9:59 AM on October 13, 2016


Dylan is fine, but if this is the first Nobel prize for literature to be handed out to a songwriter there's better lyricists to get the ball rolling.

no they're aren't.

He writes doggerel verse,

no he doesn't. Or as somebody else commented elsewhere a while back (the Allen being Allen Gisberg)

Allen was particularly impressed with "Idiot Wind,"
Dylan's excoriating attack on hypocrisy and mindless stupidity. "His genius intuition's become scientific art," Allen gushed in a lengthy journal entry that examined the song
line by line. Dylan had beaten Ginsberg at his own game: He had found a way to introduce
elements of meditation into his music. This is what Allen hoped to
accomplish in his poetry, and he had to congratulate Dylan for showing him
a practical way of doing it. "What an unexpected victory for Dylan and
the generations whose consciousness he carries forward into common sense,"
he wrote. "I want to see the words written out on the page, in stanzas,
divided by pauses and breaths, into dependent droop'd symmetries."


Now let's get serious about this expanding-of-the-definition-of-literature stuff, Nobel types, and make sure Joni Mitchell gets her due next.
posted by philip-random at 9:59 AM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Sting does "I shall be released" in "The Secret Policeman's Other Ball" (1981)
posted by chavenet at 10:05 AM on October 13, 2016


I'd like to think that songs like Hurricane, the story of the wrongful conviction of Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter contributed to this prize.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:11 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I lied, here is Bryan Ferry covering Gates if Eden, with a Edmund Fitzgerald kind of dirge waltz, I forgot one of the thinks I love about Gates, besides the imagery and poetry, is the rhythm.
posted by Oyéah at 10:18 AM on October 13, 2016


My feeling is much more that if one is going to say "only formal experimentalists who change how a form works deserve the Nobel, and only people who are explicitly working in avant-garde ways" (Pynchon, Delillo) you would argue against Lessing getting the Nobel, and that would be both sexist and foolish, IMO.

Except who would say that? I've always thought of the Nobel Literature prize as going to great -- but very much mainstream and established -- writers. None of the Nobel laureates for literature I see in the list have changed the state of their respective genres, though many have produced important and profound works within their genres.

I'd say if one wanted to make the statement that popular song lyrics can be poetry, Bob Dylan is the most obvious and safe (American) choice to make for the award. I can only think that's what's gone on here.
posted by aught at 10:19 AM on October 13, 2016




and make sure Joni Mitchell gets her due next.

I seriously doubt another singer-songwriter will get a Nobel Prize in Literature for a very long time, and likely not in my lifetime (I am 53).

The award to Dylan (I think) makes a general statement by awarding to the most obvious serious and respected songwriter alive today whose lyrics have both personal and political significance to a very large number of people around the world. Don't expect it to morph into MTV-VMA-Lit.
posted by aught at 10:26 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Bob Dylans lyrics are a long biography. A biography of soul, thought, relations, politics, protest, and also a biography of what happened to many over the course of his life. Just the sheer magnitude of his poetry, and interconnections to the artists who covered for him, the chronicle is a monolith with a broad base, and absolutely worthy of such praise.

This is Just to Say

I have borrowed
The guitar
That leaned in
Parlor

And which
You had probably
Tuned
To your liking.

Forgive me
The words and chords
They were seditious
So sweet
And so bold.
posted by Oyéah at 10:31 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Don't expect it to morph into MTV-VMA-Lit.

what the hell does Ms. Mitchell have to do with that?
posted by philip-random at 10:32 AM on October 13, 2016


Just before I went to bed an FB friend posted this image without explanation. Theefore it has been in my head all morning; I hope it enters yours as well.

I came to Dylan late via Good As I Been to You (YT playlist of non-Dylan versions of all the record's tracks), which led me back to the first records and also focused me on his later releases, from Time out of Mind forward. I can still deliver a fine rant about the genius and purity of the performances on Good As I Been To You; the intensity and careful use of phrasing in the songs is remarkable and he invests these old, old songs, products of another culture that preceded ours, with immediacy and dread. To this day I find it amusing that what brought me to Dylan is essentially a cover album.

Then one day I was absently working with a Dylan playlist running in the background and Desolation Row's crowded cityscape spilled into the room, eventually calling me into those cobblestone streets and away from the keyboard and screen for a few minutes. So naturally, I wrote about it.

Since nobody's cited said song upstairs, have a taste!
Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody’s shouting
“Which Side Are You On?”
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has ro think too much
About Desolation Row
posted by mwhybark at 10:33 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


None of the Nobel laureates for literature I see in the list have changed the state of their respective genres

Except Dylan, obviously. The history of popular music lyrics without Dylan would be fundamentally different. There is, I would argue, no single individual or group who affected 20th century lyric writing as significantly as Dylan. Hundreds of thousands of songs touching billions of people exist, in their particular form, because of Dylan.

Sometimes work is admired and respected because it's admirable and important.
posted by howfar at 10:36 AM on October 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


(oh, and another FB friend, a rock and experimental music player who is also an orchestral violist, is amusedly reporting dismayed reactions - "the fainting couch factory on full display" - from within his circle of orchestral musician friends)
posted by mwhybark at 10:39 AM on October 13, 2016




It really started my day off so well to read the NYT tweet announcing this. Particularly amidst the shitstorm that is any news from the GOP camp. Totally and unreservedly deserved. And haters can bite my ass. It's hardly Boomerism to recognize the most influential singer-songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century. There's a reason why male singer-songwriters have had to endure being viewed through the "next Bob Dylan" lens.

And news orgs: The man did write music after 1969. Maybe make some mention of his work in the decades after Woodstock?

! <--opposite of mourning period
posted by the sobsister at 11:14 AM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Nobel Prizes are like a click bait Top One articles.
posted by srboisvert at 11:23 AM on October 13, 2016




Except Dylan, obviously. The history of popular music lyrics without Dylan would be fundamentally different. There is, I would argue, no single individual or group who affected 20th century lyric writing as significantly as Dylan. Hundreds of thousands of songs touching billions of people exist, in their particular form, because of Dylan.

When the news first broke, someone outside of mainstream first world was questioning why. It was early enough to link to articles that weren't written in the flurry of post news noise blurring the signal. This one is from 2010

How Bob Dylan Changed the '60s, and American Culture

He's the most important songwriter of the last 50 years, in a culture in which songwriting has always been a major force, a major component.

Then there's the '60s. Dylan's work is indelibly linked to that time, in part because so much of his greatest work came out of '64, '65, '66. But the '60s became kind of a burden or a weight on the entire culture, certainly to people my age. It became transformed into something bigger than it was.

It was thought of as the revolution. Well, a lot of very important things happened. Jim Crow was smashed, the beginnings of the movements that would end communism in Eastern Europe—all sorts of things were happening all around the world in the late 1960s, throughout the 1960s. And Dylan was very much a part of that. And his music was very much a part of that. It expressed what he wanted to express, but people caught onto it as an expression of what they were feeling, what they were thinking.

That said, though, it's dangerous to limit any artist to a particular period. You might think of Yeats in terms of the Easter rebellion in Ireland, or Wordsworth around the French Revolution, right? But in fact their lives and their art expand far beyond that.

He's influenced by things—by music, by poetry, by writing—that came long before the 1960s. He wasn't born just full blown out of that moment. And he has continued to work and to write and to reflect and to produce great art, long, long after 1969. So it's important to see Dylan's work in that longer view. And that's sort of what I try to do in the book.

[...]

For example, one of the things Bob Dylan did was almost single-handedly kill Tin Pan Alley—the whole traditional form of publishing and producing and recording music. Now, his doing that changed music for everybody. That doesn't mean people are going to be writing and singing and performing the way he does, but they're not going to be performing anything like the world of Tin Pan Alley before Bob Dylan.


One of the handful of live acts I've been lucky enough to see. It was a small space in Chicago, a decade ago.
posted by infini at 11:28 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


For example, one of the things Bob Dylan did was almost single-handedly kill Tin Pan Alley—the whole traditional form of publishing and producing and recording music.

I would argue that Motown continued that form long after Dylan's heyday, and that it still lives in modern pop music, most of which has multiple songwriters and engineers and producers.
posted by Etrigan at 11:34 AM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's kind of a sleeper, but if we're doing favorite versions of "I Shall Be Released," I'd like to nominate this gem
posted by thivaia at 11:38 AM on October 13, 2016


It's hardly Boomerism to recognize the most influential singer-songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century.

or as I heard it argued at the turn of the millennium. Who, if anyone, will come to be regarded historically as the 20th century's Shakespeare? Why Mr. Zimmerman, of course. Which, of course, raised hackles. But it's not as if there aren't some who are still trying to discredit ole Bill.
posted by philip-random at 11:40 AM on October 13, 2016


If we have anybody who's Shakespeare in our time, it's Dylan.

From Penn Jillette's latest interview with Reason magazine.
posted by bukvich at 11:43 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


If we have anybody who's Shakespeare in our time, it's Dylan.

And that's from a guy who has been an unabashed Lou Reed / Velvet Underground fan for decades.
posted by Etrigan at 11:59 AM on October 13, 2016




So as a millenial, who is Bob Dylan? What does a millenial-aged person need to know about his works? Why the controversy (and by that I mean the root of it, not the silly proxy disputes like whether song is modern literature)?
posted by polymodus at 12:23 PM on October 13, 2016


"Sara Danius, a literary scholar and the permanent secretary of the 18-member Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, called Mr. Dylan “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition”"

"I'm a poet,
I know it,
Hope I don't blow it."
posted by storybored at 12:27 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


called Mr. Dylan “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition”"

No disrespect intended to anyone here or on the committee, but my immediate thought was such a characterization would be really awkward said to someone not white or someone from a postcolonial country. The compliment carries with it a subtle inequivalence that belies its universality.
posted by polymodus at 12:33 PM on October 13, 2016


none of you have said it - not one of you

bob dylan is now a member of the establishment

bob dylan has sold out - (or they've bought in - whatever)

children of the 60s, you are now your parents and grandparents

50 years of singing and they put you on the gray shift and give you a nobel prize

bwa, ha, ha, ha, this is your destiny, boomers, suck it

now

someone have some REAL rebellion?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:42 PM on October 13, 2016


Dylan has not been into any kind of rebellion, nor any sort of figurehead for it, since around 1964.
posted by Coda Tronca at 12:44 PM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Dylan, wow. I'm just a fan, not an historian, but I'll try a sort of summation.
He began as a folk singer, a disciple of Woody Guthrie. He became the center of the folk music scene and then, at the height of his influence, he "went electric" and set the world on fire.
His lyrics were the voice of his age -- songs like Blown' in the Wind, Mr Tambourine Man, I Shall be Released and many others have been covered by, well, pretty much everyone, not only because they are beautiful songs, but because the lyrics are powerful, poetic and often enigmatic.
Dylan himself is a puzzle. he has often said he never tried to be the voice of anything, he claimed to just be a showman, a singer.
He has endured, but in so doing he has morphed in and out of many forms over the decades. he went Nasheville, he went gospel, he became a radio personality.

Explore his early music, through the mid-seventies to get a feel for why he is revered and for why, honestly, there is no real controversy about whether he is deserving, as an artist, for this accolade.

This is one of my favorite Dylan songs, as performed by The Band, with whom he lived and collaborated when they lived together near Woodstock NY, yes, that Woodstock
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:48 PM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


So how much has changed since 1975. Man´s an artist. No complaining here.

Meanwhile, far away in another part of town
Rubin Carter and a couple of friends are drivin' around
Number one contender for the middleweight crown
Had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down
When a cop pulled him over to the side of the road
Just like the time before and the time before that
In Paterson that's just the way things go
If you're black you might as well not show up on the street
'Less you want to draw the heat
posted by adamvasco at 12:52 PM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Not that the Nobel Committee cares what I think, but this is ridiculous. Dylan isn't a writer or a poet, not matter how much he has tried to proclaim himself so (or how much his admirers have). This seems to me to be the latest in Has the World Lost its Fucking Mind this year-- how many great writers and poets were overlooked in the making of this decision? I've disagreed with the decisions of the Nobel Committee before, but this is the first time I'm actually dismayed and angry.
posted by jokeefe at 12:53 PM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Tributes
posted by adamvasco at 12:53 PM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Dylan isn't a writer or a poet

I'll bite - how do we know this?
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:06 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Dylan isn't a writer or a poet,

He writes words, almost entirely in metrical form. You may not think he's a good writer or poet, but I struggle to see the argument that he's not a writer or poet despite having spent a significant chunk of 50 years on the activity of writing poetry.
posted by howfar at 1:07 PM on October 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


No reason to get excited
The thief he kindly spoke
There are many of those among us here,
That think that life is but a joke.
But, you and me we've been through that
And this is not our fate.
So let us not talk falsely now,
The hour is getting late.
posted by Oyéah at 1:08 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


A wee anecdote from Uncle Jan in Sweden.
Do you have the time?
Way back in the early 60's me and my fellow guitarists loved Bob Dylans first records. In 1965 the man actually came to Sweden for his first concert. My girlfriend at the time worked for a music paper and duly got to the concert. we had both met Bob Pennebaker earlier and hung out with him. Anyway, after the show she was up in his hotel room with the guys. She phoned home and said Bob would like to come over to our wee house in town. Then later phoned again - yes they would be coming but Bob didnt want a load of people there. So I told the guys with guitars to get on home cos Bob Dylan was coming - I was not the most popular guy in town that night.
He never turned up of course - but then neither did she.
She got about 2 seconds in Dont Look Back though.

Did I tell you about the time I met the Rolling Stones ....
posted by jan murray at 1:09 PM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


he invented his own melodic phrase ending, the Dylan Cadential Fourth that was the subject of its own AskMe a while back
That was my AskMe! I wasn't fully satisfied with the answers I got (not for the lack of anyone trying), but actually found a good reference a few years later, which, of course, I have totally forgotten. I do seem to recall that the author thought that it originated with Dylan.
posted by dfan at 1:19 PM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


dfan, I hope you can somehow remember the Dylan Cadential Fourth reference because I'm still interested!
posted by Coda Tronca at 1:24 PM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I came across a quote while checking what the Hibbings Daily Tribune had to say (charmingly, they put the Reuters newsstory in their local section) from Swedish Academician Per Westberg: "He is probably the greatest living poet."

It has been talked about for a number of years that there were some hardcore Dylanites in the Academy, I'm assuming Westberg's one of them.

Here's the short interview given by Sara Danius after she announced the prize (from The Guardian's liveblog):
Q: Does BD really deserve the prize?
Danius: Of course he does, he just got it. He is a great poet. He is a great poet in the English-speaking tradition and he is a wonderful sampler, a very original sampler, he embodies the tradition and for 55, 54 years now he’s been at it and re-inventing himself constantly. Re-inventing himself creating a new identity.

Q: Have you talked to him today?
Danius: No, I haven’t. I will afterwards.

Q: He’s not a person who is nice and smiley when he gets awards. That doesn’t worry you?
Danius: No, I think I have a good message.

Q: Do you have personal favourites among his songs?
Danius: I think if you want to start listening, or reading, you may start with Blonde on Blonde, the album from 1966. You’ve got many classics and it’s an extraordinary example of his brilliant way of rhyming and putting together refrains and his pictorial thinking.

Q: He’s not written novels, not poetry in the usual sense, you have widened the horizon.
Danius: It may look that way but really we haven’t in a way if you look back, far back, 2500 years or so, you discover Homer and Sappho and they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to. They were meant to be performed, often together with instruments, and it’s the same way with Bob Dylan. But we still read Homer and Sappho and we enjoyed it [sic], we enjoy it and the same thing with Bob Dylan he can be read and should be read and he is a great poet in the English tradition, in the grand English poetic tradition.

Q: Do you think there will be criticism against this prize?
Danius: I hope not [smiles].

Q: When you were young and into pop rock music, which I guess you were, did you listen a lot to Bob Dylan?
Danius: Not really, but he was always around, so I know the music. I’ve started to appreciate him much more now than I did. I was a big David Bowie fan. Perhaps it is a question of generation, I don’t know. But today I’m a lover of Bob Dylan.
posted by Kattullus at 1:27 PM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also, here's a video of Bob Dylan reading poetry by Walt Whitman who he jestingly calls "a workmanlike poet". I mean, say what you will about the merits of him receiving the Nobel, but I can't think of anyone before him who married together the twin lineages of Whitmanesque poetry and American folk music. That alone is pretty impressive.
posted by Kattullus at 1:45 PM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]




Ever see Weird Al's video of Bob? It's hilarious!
posted by Melismata at 1:47 PM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]




dfan, I hope you can somehow remember the Dylan Cadential Fourth reference because I'm still interested!
OK, I found it, but it's not particularly interesting, because it's basically just confirmation that yes it is a thing.

Walter Everett, The Foundations of Rock, p. 186:
Such [vocal melodic] descent to 1 signifies a satisfied closure, but this effect is not always desired in a pop song. [...] Bob Dylan adds a tender, vulnerable quality to many of his phrases by ending on 4 over a I chord with which it does not agree; this is the ending of many verses of "Visions of Johanna" and is so frequently heard elsewhere that it might be referred to as the Dylan cadence.
posted by dfan at 2:46 PM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't know a lot of Bob Dylan's music, but I guess I'd consider myself at least a casual fan of his. But the one song of his I played over and over, in part because I dig the music but mostly because the lyrics really struck me as odd and compelling and symbolic...but symbolic of what, exactly? I still don't know, but it's a nice song to puzzle over.

The song is Isis. Here are the lyrics.
posted by zardoz at 2:46 PM on October 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


This hasn't exactly pulled me away from a general suspicion that mainstream literati culture will do ANYTHING to find another respectable old white dude to laud.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:59 PM on October 13, 2016


Isis is totally one of my most favorite of his melodies.
posted by Oyéah at 3:32 PM on October 13, 2016


Every Grain Of Sand covered by Emmylou Harris
If Not For You covered by George Harrison
It Ain't Me, Babe covered by Johnny Cash & June Carter
Just Like A Woman covered by Jeff Buckley
Knockin' On Heaven's Door covered by Antony and the Johnsons
Ring Them Bells covered by Sufjan Stevens
Hurricane covered by Ani Difranco
Tangled Up In Blue covered by Jerry Garcia
Love Rescue Me co-written with Bono & performed by U2 with Dylan (great story - Bono dreamed a snippet of the song, thought it was Dylan's, went and played it for Dylan, who said it wasn't his & then helped Bono complete the song.)
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:46 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


called Mr. Dylan “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition”"

No disrespect intended to anyone here or on the committee, but my immediate thought was such a characterization would be really awkward said to someone not white or someone from a postcolonial country.


Well that's kind of the point. It's clear that at this point, the Nobel committee conflates "literature" with "white man's literature."

For all that the superiority of their work, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Adonis and others of their company will not get awarded, not weekend there's a white musician to give the work to.
posted by happyroach at 4:00 PM on October 13, 2016


You're entitled not to like Dylan's voice, but I love it and his writing in all its incarnations. A favorite riveting moment (of so many), when he stepped up on stage for a minute at a Ramblin' Jack Elliott show in Greenwich Village on an evening in 1975 and played a little song he'd written that afternoon. Stunning composition and performance (way better than the eventual studio version):

I can hear the turning of the key
I’ve been deceived by the clown inside of me
I thought that he was righteous but he’s vain
Something’s telling me I wear the ball and chain

My patron saint is fighting with a ghost
He’s always off somewhere when I need him most
The Spanish moon is rising on the hill
But my heart is telling me I love ya still

I come back to the town from the flaming moon
I see you in the street, I begin to swoon
I love to see you dress before the mirror
Won’t you let me in your room one time before I disappear?

Everybody’s wearing a disguise
To hide what they’ve got left behind their eyes
But me, I can’t cover what I am
Wherever the children go I’ll follow them

I can't play the game no more, I can't abide
By the stupid rules which get me sick inside
They've been made by men who've given up the search
Whose gods are dead and whose queens are in the church

I march in the parade of liberty
But as long as I love you I’m not free
How long must I suffer such abuse
Won’t you let me see you smile before I cut you loose?

Send out for St. John the Evangelist
All my friends are drunk, they can be dismissed
My head says that it's time to make a change
But my heart is telling me I love ya but you’re strange

So step lightly, darlin', near the wall
Put on your heavy makeup, wear your shawl
Won’t you descend from the throne, from where you sit?
Let me feel your love one more time before I abandon it
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:20 PM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth, "rip down all hate, " I screamed
Lies that life is black and white spoke from my skull, I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

....That particular link for "My Back Pages" goes to a video from a tribute concert from 1992, and features Dylan himself, along with Neil Young, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, and George Harrison all trading verses.

Also, y'all know about the song he co-wrote with Old Crow Medicine Show, yeah? I'm not kidding.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:32 PM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Goddamn right he's a poet.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:07 PM on October 13, 2016


respectable old white dude to laud.

And as long as that old white dude isn't Roth or DeLillo, I'm happy! I'll certainly take Dylan's investment in depicting Black subjects over theirs....
posted by TwoStride at 5:14 PM on October 13, 2016


I have loved, enjoyed and/or respected many of Bob Dylan's songs, but after all these years, the first thing I think of when i hear his name is "Subterranean Homesick Blues", maybe the seminal Music Video, and one song nobody has covered well (unless you count Weird Al's semi-parody "Bob").

The pumps don’t work
’Cause the vandals took the handles

posted by oneswellfoop at 5:51 PM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think you can't really consider him a "poet" separate from his music, but I'm totally fine with that. I'd also be fine with a having the Nobel in physics go to a computer scientist with physics-y applications, or the Nobel in medicine go to a statistician, or the economics prize go to a sociologist. These categories shouldn't be so fixed, especially when no one appears to be adding new ones. If the literature prize wants to expand to encompass language-heavy music, that's totally fine. But I wouldn't want to argue that Dylan is a "poet" to the exclusion of his music, which I think is being underrated in the many defenses of this award. Just try to lipsync with the songs in Time Out of Mind, eg -- there's a lot going on in there! A literary musician has won the prize, no getting around it, and that's fine.
posted by chortly at 7:10 PM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Most of the writeups and tributes around the web focus on his career up to and including Blood on the Tracks and leave off after that. Some of my favorite songs from after that if anyone is exploring:

"Isis"
"Mozambique"
"Oh, Sister"
"Romance in Durango"
"We Better Talk This Over"
"In the Summertime"
"Every Grain of Sand"
"Jokerman"
"Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight"
"When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky"
"Brownsville Girl"
"Most of the Time"
"Shooting Star"
"Born in Time"
"Blood in My Eyes"
"Cold Irons Bound"
"Make You Feel My Love"
"Someday Baby"
posted by sallybrown at 7:47 PM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Someone's got it in for me
They're planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they'd cut it out quick
But when they will I can only guess
They say my songs are poetry
That broadened the meaning of artistry.
The Nobel Prize is a million bucks
And when they met, it came to me
I can't help it if I'm luckyyyyy!
posted by storybored at 8:01 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


My kids are going to be all, "Mom! Why do we have to listen to this boring music?" and Imma be all, "Bob Dylan won the NOBEL PRIZE, and you will LISTEN and you will LIKE IT, this is CULTURE!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:43 PM on October 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


Some of my favorite songs from after that if anyone is exploring:

The Bootleg Series Vol.8 Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989–2006 has proven an unending reward ever since it first crossed my path eight years ago. So much treasure, rare and otherwise, with Cross the Green Mountain* as good a place to start as any.

* link is to an abbreviated music-vid version that looks to be hyping the movie Gods + Generals. The original runs over eight minutes.
posted by philip-random at 8:54 PM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


For those everywhere that are dismissing another 'old white guy', last year's winner was a Russian woman who was also a boomer and nobody mentioned her age.

Second, yes Dylan is a white guy, but he is also Jewish (now orthodox) and his family has that immigrant story. Perhaps some of that immigrant experience was channelled into his early protest songs, the ones he wrote first that actually made him famous (Hattie Carroll, Hollis Brown), which brought hardcore themes of racial/social injustice and poverty to white audiences that had previously been listening to pop lyrics.
posted by Coda Tronca at 11:44 PM on October 13, 2016


There's an argument that Dylan's whole career is an immigrant story. His mom and dad were born shortly after their parents had arrived in the US in the first decade of the 20th Century. He was growing up just as the fire under the melting pot was at its hottest. Everything he's done, from changing his name from Zimmerman to Dylan and then immersing himself in American folk music and history. There's a lovely story he tells in his memoir about spending lots of time at the New York Public Library after first arriving in the city and reading through newspapers from the 1860s, fascinated by the language and moral fervor. It could be seen as Dylan rooting himself in an America before his grandparents arrived. Actually, to go back to that namechange, he's always disputed the widely-held belief that Dylan Thomas was the inspiration for the name. People who knew him before he moved to New York claim that it was inspired by Matt Dillon, a character on the TV show Gunsmoke.

What's more of an American immigrant story than taking your new name from a television cowboy and spelling it wrong?
posted by Kattullus at 12:19 AM on October 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Bootleg Series Vol.8 Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989–2006 has proven an unending reward ever since it first crossed my path eight years ago. So much treasure, rare and otherwise, with Cross the Green Mountain yt * as good a place to start as any.

oh yes! from that album I also love "Red River Shore"
Well, I'm a stranger here in a strange land
But I know this is where I belong
I'll ramble and gamble for the one I love
And the hills will give me a song
Have we had any official comment from Bob?
posted by sallybrown at 5:12 AM on October 14, 2016


I can still deliver a fine rant about the genius and purity of the performances on Good As I Been To You; the intensity and careful use of phrasing in the songs is remarkable and he invests these old, old songs, products of another culture that preceded ours, with immediacy and dread. To this day I find it amusing that what brought me to Dylan is essentially a cover album.

I was in from 1963 and his second and then first albums and still think 66's Blonde on Blonde to be The masterpiece, but, Christ, he was 24 then. He has had so many masterpieces since then.

Good to Me as I Been to You and World Gone Wrong, his traditional 'cover' albums are masterpieces, too. He poured himself into those albums playing, singing and, yes, writing as in editing, tweaking and polishing. And his song choices were nonpareil. His guitar playing was polished and his singing, as damaged as his voice was becoming, was soulful, heartfelt and deep. And his editions of those lyrics are definitive. One of these days, I am going to pop for the deluxe box set of Tell Tale Signs just to hear his take on Duncan and Brady .

As for the forthcoming 36 disc Live in 1966, well, fuck, yeah, that is on my list, too. After hearing the Live in Liverpool Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues , the B side of I Want You , how could I not ? He was on fire when he sang that. How could I not ?
posted by y2karl at 5:40 AM on October 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Leonard Cohen on Bob's Nobel Prize: "It's like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain."
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:19 AM on October 14, 2016 [13 favorites]


One thing that I wonder about: there must be many fine song-writers who don't sing in English and whose work therefore doesn't have the global reach of Dylan's. I mean, he's a fine song-writer, yes, but the world is very large - there must be at least a handful of other very fine songwriters with long careers who are regionally known but who are in Dylan's league.

You can say that part of the reason to give the Nobel is to reflect the influential nature of the work - I think that's a legit consideration in many ways, but it does bias the award toward English-language or European-language writers/poets/songwriters.

I really only know a handful of songwriters (or people whose poems are often known through song) who don't work in English - Cui Jian, Louis Aragon, Bertold Brecht, some other French and Chinese pop musicians. I wouldn't even begin to know who fine songwriters are outside of the Anglophone world and - if I hadn't used up my ask for this week - I'd post an ask.
posted by Frowner at 6:40 AM on October 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Frowner: I mean, he's a fine song-writer, yes, but the world is very large - there must be at least a handful of other very fine songwriters with long careers who are regionally known but who are in Dylan's league.

That came up yesterday on Facebook in an Icelandic culture discussion group. Ultimately the Swedish Academy is limited in this regard by their own language skills. English, French and German are probably pretty widely known among the Academicians, along with Scandinavian, of course, but that leaves most of the world inaccessible to them.

My impression that in pretty much every musical market there are a handful of genuinely great singer-songwriters. I mean, I could reel off a few in English, and same goes for French. I think that a case could have been made for Jacques Brel, for instance, if he hadn't died so young. That said, and as much as I love Brel, I don't think he was as sui generis as Dylan in his lyrics.

What Dylan did was meld avant garde literature with the folk tradition. That's not an inconsiderable achievement. But you're absolutely right, we don't have access to the other songwriters because they're so rarely translated. The Brazilian Tropicalia songwriters, like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, might be of that ilk, but I'm going on intuition and context, I just don't have linguistic access to their work.
posted by Kattullus at 7:49 AM on October 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Man in the Long Black Coat
Bob Dylan
Crickets are chirpin' the water is high
There's a soft cotton dress on the line hangin' dry
Window wide open African trees
Bent over backwards from a hurricane breeze
Not a word of goodbye not even a note
She gone with the man in the long black coat.
Somebody seen him hangin' around
As the old dance hall on the outskirts of town
He looked into her eyes when she stopped him to ask
If he wanted to dance he had a face like a mask
Somebody said from the bible he'd quote
There was dust on the man in the long black coat.
Preacher was talking 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
It ain't easy to swallow it sticks in the throat
She gave her heart to the man in the long black coat.
There are no mistakes in life some people say
It is true sometimes you can see it that way
But people don't live or die people just float
She went with the man in the long black coat.
There's smoke on the water it's been there since June
Tree trunks unprooted beneath the high crescent moon
Feel the pulse and vibration and the rumbling force
Somebody is out there beating on a dead horse
She never said nothing there was nothing she wrote
She gone with the man in the long black coat.


I think it is poetry.
posted by bjgeiger at 8:02 AM on October 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Springsteen on Dylan:
Bob Dylan is the father of my country. Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home were not only great records, but they were the first time I can remember being exposed to a truthful vision of the place I lived. The darkness and light were all there, the veil of illusion and deception ripped aside. He put his boot on the stultifying politeness and daily routine that covered corruption and decay. The world he described was all on view, in my little town, and spread out over the television that beamed into our isolated homes, but it went uncommented on and silently tolerated. He inspired me and gave me hope. He asked the questions everyone else was too frightened to ask, especially to a fifteen-year-old: “How does it feel... to be on your own?” A seismic gap had opened up between generations and you suddenly felt orphaned, abandoned amid the flow of history, your compass spinning, internally homeless. Bob pointed true north and served as a beacon to assist you in making your way through the new wilderness America had become. He planted a flag, wrote the songs, sang the words that were essential to the times, to the emotional and spiritual survival of so many young Americans at that moment.

I had the opportunity to sing “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” for Bob when he received the Kennedy Center Honors. We were alone together for a brief moment walking down a back stairwell when he thanked me for being there and said, “If there’s anything I can ever do for you...” I thought, “Are you kidding me?” and answered, “It’s already been done.”
posted by octothorpe at 9:12 AM on October 14, 2016 [7 favorites]




Try this Intro Jack Nicholsen, with Ron Wood, and Keith Richards.
posted by Oyéah at 10:02 AM on October 14, 2016


37 Hilarious Bob Dylan Stories

That's it's own FPP. #12 is precisely why I would NEVER want to be famous ...

He Played Chess With a Stranger to Avoid Other Strangers
Folk singer Todd Snider told The Village Voice an insightful second-hand story: A friend of his played on the same European festival bill as Dylan, and after the concert, the musicians, Dylan included, had to take a ferry back to their hotels. Dylan was surrounded by onlookers and needed an escape. “My friend [who was sitting at a table with a chessboard] walked right up to [Dylan] and said, ‘Bob, we got the chessboard you wanted’ and Bob saw his chance and took it. My buddy got to play silent chess with him the whole trip, and as long as Bob seemed engaged, people seemed to leave him alone.”

posted by philip-random at 12:15 PM on October 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Twitter reactions both pro and con from various celebrities and authors. I think the pro reactions are more intelligent, but that may be because I agree with them.
posted by TedW at 4:39 PM on October 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't even begin to know who fine songwriters are outside of the Anglophone world and - if I hadn't used up my ask for this week - I'd post an ask.

I discovered Mulatu Astatke this week - not a lyricist, but a songwriter and the father of Ethio-jazz. Check Tezeta out and see if you like it :)
posted by sallybrown at 4:48 PM on October 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


In Utah they took that line "The pump don't work because the vandals took the handle," and created an eco group called the VANDALS, Voices Against Needless Destruction of Air Land and Sea.
posted by Oyéah at 6:53 PM on October 14, 2016


Growing up I only listened to current music, so I was very familiar with the top 40 hits and alternative rock of the 80s and 90s. As a young adult I started to seek out music recorded before I hit puberty. So I fell in love with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Nina Simone. It would have been natural to start on Bob Dylan at this point as well but he was in the news at that time for plagiarizing something or other. So I just figured he was kind of evil and ignored him. No one in the thread seems to have mentioned this, so I guess it all blew over. Maybe it's time to give him a listen.
posted by great_radio at 7:02 PM on October 14, 2016


In Paris this summer there was a big exhibit on The Beats at the Centre Pompidou Museum of Modern Art. I went to check it out; and noticed that several of the attendees were at a bit of a disadvantage when checking out some of the material, because it was all in English, and not everyone's English was fluent. I, however, could read everything, and also geeked out about the significance of a couple things, which probably made me a source of confusion for others - like when I saw they had the original manuscript of On The Road all unrolled like a scroll, running the length of the gallery. I spent about five minutes pacing back and forth beside one small section, nose practically pressed to the glass and squinting at it because i was trying to find one specific line; then I noticed people were looking at me funny and backed off.

And it happened again in the next room in the gallery, where they had the video for Subterranean Homesick Blues projected on a 30-foot screen on a continuous loop. The placard beside it said a little about the history of the song and mentioned that one of the figures standing in the background was Allen Ginsburg. But it didn't explain to the other visitors why there was a giddy-looking femme Americanne standing in the opposite corner, grinning at it and chanting "Keep a clean nose, Watch the plain clothes, You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows..."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:17 PM on October 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


but he was in the news at that time for plagiarizing something or other. So I just figured he was kind of evil and ignored him

he comes from the folk tradition, a key aspect of which is to work from existing stuff, expand and/or contract. To my mind, calling him out for plagiarism (as some still are) is akin to calling out hip-hop for for sampling etc. Dylan's always been a sampler. Sampling is a form of collage. Collage is the twentieth century's greatest innovation. Dylan seems mostly guilty of being relevant.

As for who gets the credit and a share of the royalties, I'll leave that to the lawyers and trust that they'll get it wrong.
posted by philip-random at 10:02 PM on October 14, 2016


Ryu Spaeth: Right, the middle-finger component seems undeniable. Clearly the Swedish Academy does not think much of Philip Roth or Don DeLillo or Thomas Pynchon or any of the usual names that pop up every October. And to be fair, I’ve always been irked by the implicit notion in the American media that America somehow deserves another Nobel Prize, when there are plenty of less famous, non-American writers out there who have done monumental work that is just as good, if not better, Svetlana Alexievich being the most recent example. But at the same time, it does seem like a slap in the face to a lot of American writers who have been toiling on novels and plays and poems for years, while Dylan has been PLAYING GUITAR, WHICH IS NOT WRITING.

Alex Shephard: Are you mad, Ryu? I mean, I retreat to this position more than is probably healthy, but I guess my big response to that is, “Who cares, my man?” Also, Dylan hasn’t been able to play guitar for a while because he has busted wrists and is an old man. He does still do a pretty mean soft shoe, if you’ve seen him live, which I’m assuming you haven’t.
Excerpt from this conversation.
posted by Kattullus at 12:49 AM on October 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


while Dylan has been PLAYING GUITAR, WHICH IS NOT WRITING.

Yeah, it's almost like they're giving the Nobel prize to Michael James, Mark Smith and Munaf Rayani.
posted by lmfsilva at 2:20 AM on October 15, 2016


So the weekend news on NPR decided to get cute and pay homage to Dylan by playing some of the, er, questionable covers of Dylan songs that have come out - including To Make You Feel My Love, by Jeremy Irons, and - yes - Shatner's Mr. Tambourine Man.

thanks a lot scott simon
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:39 AM on October 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Nobel prize is broadly considered the most important award (rightly so), yet there are awarded writers who remain obscure and writers who have not been awarded but their reputation hasn't suffered for it. Dylan's fame will most likely continue resting on his music rather than his separate lyrics, so this year's award rather seems a statement about what the Swedish Academy considers literature. The comparison to Homer and Sappho is a bit specious, to me, since our opinion of them is based on words without music unlike Dylan. Poetry deals to a great degree in sounds, rhythm and the like, which often change when sung or accompanied by music. To me, that change makes Dylan a great singer and a great lyricist though not a great poet. To illustrate using a previous laureate (Heaney):

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
posted by ersatz at 7:52 AM on October 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking about how to describe Dylan in that weird language that is usually employed by Anglophone journalism when explaining the latest Nobel laureate to their readers. This is how I think it would be:

Bob Dylan began his career working with the traditional poetry of his nation, dealing primarily with left-wing political concerns. However, he soon began to incorporate avant garde and modernist techniques into his works, which caused controversy and a rift with traditionalists. This aspect, that he "created new poetic expressions within the [...] tradition" was specifically cited by the Nobel Committee when announcing the award. For the rest of his career Dylan turned his pen to writing about all kinds of subjects, from his religious beliefs, historical figures, to expressing his personal feelings. In later years his poetry has increasingly dealt with the finality of life, as well as becoming increasingly allusive, referencing everything from old poets of his country, Japanese literature, writers of antiquity, and popular music from his youth. Bob Dylan is 75 years old and has characteristically remained silent about the award.

From that perspective he's not such an unusual Nobel Prize winner.
posted by Kattullus at 6:50 AM on October 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


For completeness, Bob Dylan's appearance on the sitcom Dharma & Greg is now even more incomprehensible to me as a result of his becoming a Nobel laureate.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:53 AM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


thanks a lot scott simon
aka smarm incarnate
posted by y2karl at 10:31 AM on October 16, 2016


Dylan's fame will most likely continue resting on his music rather than his separate lyrics

Surely you jape
posted by y2karl at 10:36 AM on October 16, 2016


Oh, and in case anyone was wondering about Dylan's classical allusions: Streets of Rome: The Classical Dylan by Harvard classicist and Dylan scholar Richard F. Thomas.
posted by Kattullus at 11:57 AM on October 16, 2016


Handwringing about “what is literature?” seems inevitable after the announcement that a rock star has taken the global writing community’s biggest award. But no great existential crisis is needed. The Nobel Committee could have decided that with this prize it wanted to expand the definition of “literature” to include recorded music, a hugely influential and relatively young art form that doesn’t have an award of Nobel-like prestige dedicated to it. But it seems to have declined to do so. Dylan is winning 8 million kronor ($932,786) for his words as they are written and not sung—affording him a wild degree of praise for something that is not the main achievement of his career.

After this morning’s announcement, an interviewer put to the Nobel Permanent Secretary Sara Danius the notion that because Dylan isn’t known for novels or traditional poetry, the committee has “widened the horizon” of the literature prize. Darius pushed back:
...If you look back, far back, 2,500 years or so ago, you discover Homer and Sappho. And they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to, they were meant to be performed, often together with instruments. It’s the same way with Bob Dylan. But we still read Homer and Sappho and we enjoy it. And same thing with Bob Dylan. He can be read and should be read, and is a great poet in the grand English poetic tradition.
"He can be read and should be read.” With those words, Darius is advocating for people to turn off their speakers and pick up a copy of Bob Dylan’s Lyrics tomes, complete collections of his words that have come out in various editions since 1985. She also mentioned that people may want to listen to Blonde on Blonde as an entrypoint. But listening is not what this award is about.
Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize Isn't About Music
posted by y2karl at 12:58 PM on October 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


If I am not mistaken, the words of Homer were sung and often to the accompaniment of a lyre -- hence, lyrics -- and yet they are considered poetry. As is slam poetry and rap lyrics by their aficionados -- hence, fans, if I am not mistaken, by etymological derivation -- and for a fact much of those are doggerel.

And, by the way, to call Dylan’s verse doggerel is a cheap and inaccurate shot. His lyrics have rhyme schemes a tad more involved than mere doggerel.

Now, I am no fan of slam poetry nor of much rap but I can recognize that they are part of the vaster realm of what is poetry.

Tastes differ. We all just can't like the same things.

To say Dylan's lyrics are unworthy in comparison to Cole Porter is a matter of taste. But I can see all fitting under poetry's umbrella.
Unworthy in comparison to Sondheim, on the other hand, sticks in my craw... But that's just me. Don't get me going.
posted by y2karl at 1:37 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Dylan deserves a Nobel Prize for his snarky replies to dumb interview questions:

First Important public appearance: closet at O'Henry's Square Shop. Other disc in best-sellers: "I Lost My Love In San Francisco, But She Appeared Again in Honduras and We took a Trip to Hong Kong and Stayed Awhile in Reno But Lost Her Again in Oklahoma." Latest Release: "The Queens are Coming." Albums: yes Personal Manager: Dog Jones. Musical Director: Big Dog.... Favorite food: Turkish Marvin (a form ofeggplant coming from Nebraska). Favorite clothes: Nose-guards Favorite bands/instrumentalists: Corky the Kid (Sombreros) Favorite composers: Brown Bumpkin and Sidney Ciggy Other groups: The Fab Clocks. Miscellaneous likes: Trucks with no wheels. French telephones, anything with a stewed prune in the middle. Miscellaneous dislikes: Hairy firemen, toe-nails, glass Mober forks, birds with ears. Most thrilling experience: Getting my birhday cake stomped on by Norman Mailer. Taste in music: Sort Of peanut butter. Personal ambition: To be a waitress. Professional ambition: To be a stewardess.'

"Q: Do you think of yourself primarily as a singer or a poet? A: Oh, I think of myself more as a song-and-dance man.... Q:- Josh Dunson ... implies that you have sold out to commercial interests ... A: I sincerely don't feel guilty. Q: If you were going to sell out to a commercial interest, which one would you choose? A: Ladies garments ... Q: What's your new album about? A: ... all kinds of different things-rats,balloons ... Q: How would you define folk music? A: As a constitutional replay of mass production. Q: Who is 'Mister Jones'? A: Mr. Jones? I'm not going to tell you his first name. I'd get sued. Q: What does (Mister Jones] do for a living? A: He's a pinboy. He also wears suspenders. Q: What are your own personal hopes for the future and what do you hope for change in the world? A: ... I don't have any hopes for the future I just hope to have enough boots to be able to change them.... Q: Why you think you're so popular? A: I don't know. I'm not a reporter. I'm not a newsman.... I'm not even a philosopher, so I have no idea...."

"Q: I wonder if you could tell me, among folk singers how many could be characterized as protest singers today? A: I dont understand. Could you ask the question again? Q: How many people in the same musical vineyards in which you toil, how many are protest singers? That is, how many use their music to protest about times in which we are today? A: How many? One hundred thirty-six, It's either one hundred thirty-six or one hundred thirty-two Q: What does the word protest mean to you? A: It means singing when you don't want to sing. It means singing against your wishes you sing protest songs? Q- What do you sing? A: songs. Q- Is it true that you changed your name? If so which other name? A: ... Kunezevitch. I changed it to avoid people who would come up to me in different parts for tickets for concerts and stuff like that. Kunezevitch, yeah. Q: Was that your first or last name? A: That was my first name. [Laughter and applause] I don't really want to tell you what my last name was. "Q: Bob, why is there such a widespread use of drugs among singers today? [Uughterl A: I don't know. Are you a singer? ... Q: Do you take drugs yourself? A: I don't even know what a drug is. I have never even seen a drug. I would not know what one looked like if I saw one. Q: Bob, what sort of technique do you use when you write a song, or don't you call it any sort of technique? A: Well, I just sit down and the next thing Iknow, it's there....

Q: Why did you give up the folk sound? A: I've been on too many other streets to just do that ... the real people never see 42nd Street; they've never ridden an airplane. Q: You talk as if you are terribly separated from people. A: I'm not disconnected for anything because of a force, just habit., just the way I am.... I don't know, I have no idea that it's euiet be disconnected than to be connected. I've got a huge hallelujah fer all the people who're connected.... I've been connected so many times. Things haven't worked out right, so rather than break myself up, I just don't get connected.... Q: Do you avoid close relationships with people? A: I have relationships with people. People like me, also disconnected; there are a lot of disconnected people. I don't feel alienated or dis. connected or afraid. I don't feel there's any kind of organization of disconnected people. I just can't go along with an@ kind of organiza. tion. Some day I might find myself all alone in a subway car, stranded when the lights go out, with 40 people, and I'll have to get to know them. Then I'll just do what his to be.

Q.: Who did you write songs like before [Woody Guthrie]? A.: Ever hear of Gene Vincent? Buddy Holly? Q.: Then you had a rock and roll band in high school? A.: I had a banana band in high school. Q.: So then you heard of Guthrie and he changed your life? A.: Then I heard of Josh White ... Q.: Then you heard of Guthrie ... A.: Then I heard about those riots in San Francisco ... Q.: The HUAC riots? A.: An' I missed out on meeting James Dean so I decided to meet Woody Guthrie. Q.: How about Hank Williams? Do you consider him an influence? A.: Hey, look, I consider Hank Williams, Captain Marvel, Marlon Brando, The Tennessee Stud, Clark Kent, Walter Cronkite, and J. Carroll Naish all influences....

Q.: Tell us about your movie. A.: Its gonna be in black and white. Q.: Will it be in the Andy Warhol style? A.: Who's Andy Warhol? Listen, my movie will be... in the style of the early Puerto Rican films. Q.: Who's writing it? A.: Allen Ginsberg- I'm going to rewrite it. Q.: Who will you play in the film? A.: The Hero. Q.: Who is that going to be? A.: My mother ... Q.: Bobby, we know you changed your name, come on now, what's your real name? A.: Philip Ochs. I'll change it back again when I see it pays. Q.: Bob, we understand you're writing a book. A.: Yeah it's a funny book. I think it's coming out by spring. Q.: What's it about? A.: Angels Q.: Don't you have any important philosophy for the world? A.: I don't drink hard liquor, if that's what you mean. Q.: No. The world in general. You and the world? A.: Are you kidding? The world doesn't need me. Christ, I'm only five feet ten. The world could get along fine without me. Don'tcha know, everybody dies. It don't matter how important you think you are. Look at Shakespeare, Napoleon. Edgar Allan Poe, for that matter. They're all dead, right? Q.: Well, Bob, in your opinion, then, is there one man who can save the world? A.: Al Aronowitz.

. I asked him to define the blues. He said: "The blues is a pair of p@ants without any pockets. Do you like that?" . . . he con- tinued, "The blues is a pair of torn pants without anything in the pockets." He added, "Blues is a color. That's all." "What do you con- sider is your place in American folk music?" "I'm not a folk singer any more than anybody is." As he climbed into the car he hollered out, much to the delight of some three or four dozen fans: "Folk singers are Communists."

Q: Why are you putting us, and the rest of the world, on so? A: I'm just trying to answer your questions as good as you can ask them. Q: I am sure you must have been asked a thousand times-what are you trying to say in your music? I don't understand one of the songs. A:Well, you shouldn't feel offended or anything. I am not trying to say anything to you. If you don't get it, you don't have to really think about it, because it's not addressed to you. Q: Are you trying to say something when.you write? Or are you just entertaining? A: I'm just an entertainer. That's all. Q: Do you really feel that it's important for you to write and sing? A:[Menacingly] Now, you are gonna make me mad now. Q: Or do you just want to do it because you're successful? Do you really feel the things that you write? A: What is there to feel? Name me some things. Q: We are talking about standard emotions-pain, remorse, love ... A: I have none of those feelings. Q: What sort of feelings do you have when you write a song? A: I don't have to explain my feelings! I am not on trial here! Q: You sound and look very tired, very ill. Is this your normal state? A: I take that as an insult. I don't like to hear that kind of thing.... Q: Vhat's the reason for your visit to California? A: Oh, I'm here looking for some donkeys. I am making a movie about Jesus. Q: Where are you making it? A: Back east. Q: Did your parents give you any special advice when you last saw them? Did they say 'good-bye' or 'good luck' or anything like that? A: No, do your parents do that to you? Q: As a little boy, did you want to write songs and be a singer? A: No, I wanted to be a movie usher. It's been my lifelong ambition to be a movie usher, and I have failed, as far is I'M concerned. "Q: Why do you think that kids are listening to you now? A: I really don't know. I do know that today there's more freedom in the mind of year-old college students. I know that, that's true. Q: What'se today among young people? A: Oh, God! I don't know any of them Q: What do you spend your money on? You seem to lead a simple life A: Well that's the way it goes..

Q: Are you disillusioned? A: I'm not disillusioned. I'm just not illusioned, either. Q:. Why have you stopped composing and singing protest A: message songs, as everybody knows, are a drag ... what I'm going to do is rent Town Hall and put about 30 Western Union boys on the bill. I mean, then there'll really b 'e some messages.... Q.- You told an interviewer last year, 'I've done everything I've ever wanted to do.' If that's true, what do you have to look forward to? A: Salvation. just plain salvation. Q:- Anything else? A: Praying. I'd also like to start a cookbook magazine. And I've always wanted to be a boxing referee. Q:.- Did you ever have the standard boyhood dream of growing up to be President? A : No. When I was a boy, Harry Truman was President; who'd want to be Harry Truman? Q:.- Well, let's suppose that you were the President. What would you accomplish during your first thousand days? A: ... the first thing I'd do is probably move the White House. instead of being in Texas, it'd be on the East Side in New York. McGeorge Bundy would definitely have to change his name, and General McNamara would be forced to wear a coonskin cap and shades. I would immediately rewrite'The Star-Spangled Banner,' and little school children, instead of me-caged to exasperate practically everybody.... He wafted a red rose to his nose and could be heard ... to say: 'Stiff, cold and morristic,,,, I am bored with the atom bomb. I am bored With our Government. I do wish somebody in our Government had a beard, just to be different.'

Q: "Are you Jewish?" A: "'No, I am not, but some of my best friends are. "'You'd better interview Tito Burns, the agent for the tour, because I know he is Jewish. Q: You must obviously make a lot of money nowadays.... A: I spend it all. I have six Cadillacs. I have four houses. I have a'plantation in Georgia. I'm also now working on some kind of rocket.... Q: Do you have per-sonal things, cameras, watches and that sort of thing? A: No, I buy cars. I have lots of cars. The Cadillacs ... a few Oldsmobiles ...Listen. I really don't care less what your paper writes about me Q: Why be so hostile? A: Because you're hostile to me. You're using me. i,m an object to you. I went through this before.... There's nothing personal, I've nothing against you at all. I just don't want to be bothered with your paper, that's all ... YOU just Say my name is Kessenovitch ... and I ... come from Mexico. That my father was an escaped thief from South Africa. Q: Are your tastes in clothes changing at all? A: I like to wear umbrellas, hats. Q: When did you start making records? A: I began making recordings in 1947. . . . A race record. I made it down South. Actually, the first record I made was in 1935. John Hammond came and recorded me. Discovered me in 1935, sitting on a farm.

Q: What's the most important thing in the world to you right now? A: Oh ,my God...I'd say this tie I'm wearing now right now Q: Why..that tie? A: Well...President Johnson used to wear a tie like this-before he was President...It's a sign of the common man. So I wear a tie like this...just to get involved.

posted by ovvl at 5:48 PM on October 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sara Danius of the Swedish Academy told Swedish Radio that they've stopped trying to contact Dylan. He hasn't responded to the award announcement yet. They don't know whether he's coming to accept the prize or not. They have plans for either eventuality.
posted by Kattullus at 7:05 AM on October 17, 2016


I heard he is going to refuse it.

That would be so fucking great it would almost be the best thing in the newspapers all year.

(This is only a rumor my sources can be total retards)
posted by bukvich at 7:58 AM on October 17, 2016


As Obama said of Dylan in 2010:

"Here's what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you'd expect he would be. He wouldn't come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing before the set in the evening. He didn't want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn't show up to that. He came in and played 'The Times They Are A-Changin'.' A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage — I'm sitting right in the front row — comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin, and then leaves. And that was it — then he left. That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: That's how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don't want him to be all cheesin' and grinnin' with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise. So that was a real treat."

I can totally see Bob being cagey about accepting. Maybe he's playing it both ways for now, maybe he doesn't even know the answer himself. Maybe he's making a profound point about competition in the arts. Maybe he can't find a phone. That's Bob.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:34 PM on October 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Probably my favorite reaction article so far (but then I think about translation a lot): Bob Dylan: The Music Travels, the Poetry Stays Home by author and translator Tim Parks. Excerpt:
At times I have even thought the prize has had a perverse influence. The mere thought that there are writers who actually write towards it, fashioning their work, and their networking, in the hope of one day wearing the laurels, is genuinely disturbing. And everyone is aware of course of that sad figure, the literary great who in older age eats his or her heart out because, on top of all the other accolades, the Swedish Academy has never called. They would be better off if the prize did not exist. As for the journalists, one might say that the more they are interested in the prize, the less they are interested in literature.

All that said, this year I have to admit that the judges have done something remarkable. And you have to say, chapeau! For they have thrown the cat among the pigeons in a most delightful manner. First they have given the prize to someone who wasn’t courting it in any way, and that in itself is cheering. Second, in provoking the backlash of the purists who demand that the Nobel go to a novelist or poet, and the diehard fans who feel their literary hero has been short changed, they have revealed the pettiness, and boundary drawing that infests literary discourse. Why can’t these people understand? Art is simply not about a solemn attachment to this or that form. The judge’s decision to celebrate a greatness that also involves writing is a welcome invitation to move away from wearisome rivalries and simply take pleasure in contemplating one man’s awesome achievement.

But the most striking thing about the choice of Dylan has little to do with his primary status as a musician rather than novelist or poet. Far more interesting, at least from my point of view, as a long-term resident in Italy, translator, and teacher of translation, is that this prize divides the world, geographically and linguistically, in a way no other Nobel has done. Which is quite something when you think that the Nobel was invented precisely to establish an international consensus on literary greatness.
posted by Kattullus at 2:03 PM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can totally see Bob being cagey about accepting.

he does have history in that regard as the song Day of the Locusts attests ...

... a cynical piece of work inspired by his June experience at Princeton University. David Crosby was present, and later commented: "Sara was trying to get Bob to go to Princeton University, where he was being presented with an honorary doctorate. Bob did not want to go. I said, 'C'mon, Bob it's an honor!' Sara and I both worked on him for a long time. Finally, he agreed. I had a car outside, a big limousine. That was the first thing he didn't like. We smoked another joint on the way and I noticed Dylan getting really quite paranoid about it. When we arrived at Princeton, they took us to a little room and Bob was asked to wear a cap and gown. He refused outright. They said, 'We won't give you the degree if you don't wear this.' Dylan said, 'Fine. I didn't ask for it in the first place.'...Finally we convinced him to wear the cap and gown." The lyrics refer to the 17-year cicada infestation covering Princeton at the time:
posted by philip-random at 6:06 PM on October 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Surely you jape
posted by y2karl at 7:36 PM on October 16 [+] [!]

But the most striking thing about the choice of Dylan has little to do with his primary status as a musician rather than novelist or poet.

;)
posted by ersatz at 6:47 AM on October 18, 2016


Michael Orthofer, who isn't a fan of Dylan's selection, has some thoughts about Dylan so far ignoring the Academy:
And this is where it gets interesting -- not so much regarding what happens next with Dylan and the Nobel this year (who cares ?), but what happens with the Nobel in future years.

One thing the prize does rely on is respect. Even Sartre, who turned the prize down, did so respectfully. Even those who couldn't care less have expressed their thanks and said they were honored.

Dylan -- who is, as I've mentioned, the first laureate bigger than the prize itself since Winston Churchill -- doesn't need to play along, and he isn't playing along. And while Sara Danius is all smiles about this, this is a humiliation that severely undermines the agenda, and the vision for the prize that those who supported the selection of Dylan-as-laureate have.

I think it's clear that there was disagreement at the Academy regarding this selection -- the delay in announcing the winner by a week (and it was a delay, no matter what they try to say) suggesting considerable disagreement (though no one has come forward publicly, as has happened with previous controversial choices (such as that of Elfriede Jelinek)). And now surely Dylan's behavior hands those opposed to giving him the prize -- a sizable minority, I assume -- a perfect argument for going back to the safe, more traditional way of doing things -- like awarding the prize to someone who mainly writes books.

I don't know who led the way in trying to convince the fellow Academicians to go with Dylan, but obviously those arguments now look a whole lot less convincing. The Swedish Academy might want to show how cool they can be with their literature-expanding selections, but the one thing they can't afford -- and which surely upsets many of them -- is someone shitting on the prize like this. And Dylan's behavior is the ultimate denigration of the prize: even denouncement is better, because that still suggests the prize means something. To ignore the prize devalues everything the Swedish Academy does.
posted by edeezy at 11:30 AM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]




Bob Dylan is actively going out of his way not to acknowledge the Nobel Prize, though he still hasn't publicly disavowed it. I'm starting to feel a bit for the Nobel Committee. This isn't working out like they thought it would.
posted by Kattullus at 12:26 PM on October 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Nobel Committee now knows how Chris Christie felt when Bruce Springsteen started in on him.
posted by Etrigan at 12:37 PM on October 21, 2016


The Swedish Academician Per Wästberg, who shortly after the award announcement said Dylan was "probably the greatest living poet", went on Swedish television and said that Dylan was "impolite and arrogant". This has prompted the Swedish Academy to send out a press release disavowing Wästberg and saying they do not care at all what Dylan does or does not do. This is really not working out how they thought it would.
posted by Kattullus at 3:39 PM on October 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


*disavowing Wästberg's words
posted by Kattullus at 3:46 PM on October 22, 2016




The consternation of the Nobel people is definitely funny. Dylan is being particularly ungracious -- when people pay you a compliment, you shouldn't act like quite so churlish -- but he's been famous for that for decades, so surely this can't be a total surprise.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:17 PM on October 23, 2016


. Dylan is being particularly ungracious -- when people pay you a compliment, you shouldn't act like quite so churlish --

I'd argue that Dylan owes the world nothing.

His career, particularly since his motorcycle accident (1966), has been pretty much one big statement of such. Whatever fame, glory, influence he has had since then, he hasn't pursued it; indeed he has mostly done the opposite.

His 1965 "gone electric" performance at the Newport Folk Festival tends to get most of the notice, but it's arguable that what happened in 1964 is far more pivotal toward understanding what's been going for the subsequent fifty plus years.

“You know him, he’s yours: Bob Dylan.” It’s hard to imagine a more ironic introduction, but those were the words used by Ronnie Gilbert of The Weavers to introduce Dylan at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. “What a crazy thing to say!” Dylan wrote in his memoir, Chronicles. “Screw that. As far as I knew, I didn’t belong to anybody then or now.” A year later at Newport he made his point loud and clear. They didn’t know him, and he wasn’t theirs.
posted by philip-random at 7:40 PM on October 23, 2016 [2 favorites]




This is so hilarious. After all those thinkpieces about "Dylan's silence", he just says: "Isn't that something…?"
posted by Kattullus at 11:58 PM on October 28, 2016


"For when I ask about his Nobel, Dylan is all affability. Yes,

from deep into the piece:

Dylan treats her words with a certain hesitation. “I suppose so, in some way. Some [of my own] songs – “Blind Willie”, “The Ballad of Hollis Brown”, “Joey”, “A Hard Rain”, “Hurricane”, and some others – definitely are Homeric in value.”

He has never, of course, been one to explain his lyrics. “I’ll let other people decide what they are,” he tells me. “The academics, they ought to know. I’m not really qualified. I don’t have any opinion.”

posted by philip-random at 1:59 AM on October 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Blind Willie McTell ... c/o The Band.

Well, God is in heaven
And we all want what's his
But power and greed and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is
I'm gazing out the window
Of the St. James Hotel
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

posted by philip-random at 2:12 AM on October 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


So apparently Bob Dylan gave the Swedish Academy a call.
posted by Kattullus at 10:01 AM on October 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


And told them I will let you know if I can make it. Is this more or less disrespectful than Sartre? And what did his public relations and lawyer guys say to him in lieu of abject begging?

(Maybe nothing. Maybe there were six public relations and lawyer guys on their knees begging just solely for his jollies.)
posted by bukvich at 11:49 PM on November 1, 2016


Lucian K. Truscott IV has a nice piece in the Village Voice about Dylan in New York in the mid-70s. Includes reminiscences of Patti Smith, the birth of the Rolling Thunder Revue, and Bob Dylan going to Norman Mailer's birthday party.
posted by Kattullus at 5:50 AM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


The consternation of the Nobel people is definitely funny. Dylan is being particularly ungracious -- when people pay you a compliment, you shouldn't act like quite so churlish

Or perhaps Dylan has the good taste to recognize the absurdity of the whole thing and was keeping his head down out of embarrassment.

I don't think I'm getting over my outrage any time soon.

posted by jokeefe at 10:31 AM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


In case this hasn't been posted yet, from LitHub- Bob Dylan Isn't Even America's Greatest Literary Songwriter.
posted by jokeefe at 7:53 PM on November 5, 2016


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