I guess I’d have to start with Buddy Holly
June 5, 2017 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Bob Dylan's Nobel Lecture is now online.

In a lot of ways, some of these same things have happened to you. You too have had drugs dropped into your wine. You too have shared a bed with the wrong woman. You too have been spellbound by magical voices, sweet voices with strange melodies. You too have come so far and have been so far blown back. And you’ve had close calls as well. You have angered people you should not have. And you too have rambled this country all around. And you’ve also felt that ill wind, the one that blows you no good. And that’s still not all of it.
posted by philip-random (29 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was grumpy about his getting the literature prize, but damn if he didn't do pretty well by the lecture. Here's the Leadbelly song he mentions; I've heard a lot of versions, but now I think this is the only one I need.
posted by languagehat at 1:53 PM on June 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


I was so happy to hear this plain spoken address, so glad he did it, and left a perfect record of himself for a clear memorial in time.

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.

I will never, never, ever forget Mr. Bob Dylan.
posted by Oyéah at 2:03 PM on June 5, 2017 [5 favorites]


ahem. Leonard Cohen was robbed.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:09 PM on June 5, 2017 [13 favorites]


"And who will write love songs for you, when I am lowered at last?"-Bob Dylan!
posted by Oyéah at 2:19 PM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


The eternal Tambourine Man.
posted by Freedomboy at 2:39 PM on June 5, 2017


I was grumpy about his getting the literature prize

It was the greatest moment in annoying literature people since Cormac McCarthy appeared on Oprah
posted by thelonius at 2:51 PM on June 5, 2017 [19 favorites]


Giving the Nobel to Dylan "is like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain" --Leonard Cohen

That was nice. I could happily listen to him to ramble on about books .
posted by cron at 2:55 PM on June 5, 2017 [9 favorites]


If a song moves you, that’s all that’s important... John Donne as well, the poet-priest who lived in the time of Shakespeare, wrote these words, “The Sestos and Abydos of her breasts. Not of two lovers, but two loves, the nests.” I don’t know what it means, either. But it sounds good. And you want your songs to sound good.

I was with him when he was talking about those three pieces of literature that influenced him, but this is kind of unsatisfying, even if I'm not sure if he's strictly incorrect. I'd think ideally you want your songs to sound good, to move people somehow, and, on some level, to communicate or express something of substance (or even not of substance!) Maybe it's not a 'meaning' but it's something. Maybe it's intangible or difficult to articulate, but it's something. For the first musician winner to be someone who is basically saying "eh, the content and substance of the lyrics isn't so important as long as they sound good and elicit a reaction" seems odd to me. Hmm, what are we all really doing here on this earth, anyway. Bob Dylan wins the big literature prize and says eh it's mostly all kinda optional and just make sure it sounds pretty.
posted by naju at 2:58 PM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


I have this friend who's father was a promoter for Bob Dylan in the 60's. He spent a lot of time at their house, as did other up-and-comers, like the Beatles. But Dylan and her father had this weird relationship where there was a lot of sacrifice on the part of the family, and, though he tried to make it all right via several grand gestures, well, let's just say she doesn't have any good stories about him. She's still bitter about lots of things that happened and keeps threatening to write a book; I keep telling her that her target audience is rapidly shrinking. But damned if Dylan doesn't manage to keep himself in the public eye. She may make something of it yet.
posted by vignettist at 3:01 PM on June 5, 2017


Bob Dylan wins the big literature prize and says eh it's mostly all kinda optional and just make sure it sounds pretty.

The job of a literary critic is to be certain of what it all means. The job of a writer is to admit they have no idea what any of it means.
posted by danny the boy at 3:27 PM on June 5, 2017 [10 favorites]


That Bob Dylan, always pulling people's legs.
posted by fixedgear at 4:04 PM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's intangible or difficult to articulate, but it's something. For the first musician winner to be someone who is basically saying "eh, the content and substance of the lyrics isn't so important as long as they sound good and elicit a reaction" seems odd to me. Hmm, what are we all really doing here on this earth, anyway. Bob Dylan wins the big literature prize and says eh it's mostly all kinda optional and just make sure it sounds pretty.

You're painting it as though he's sloughing off the duty of arriving at a point by saying "it doesn't matter what it means as long as it moves you", but the point is he's spent the entire essay dissecting how "being moved" works, the recurrence of themes, motifs, mythological subtexts etc through these works of literature, through religious texts, through the folk canon etc can activate a person's sensibilities over the course of a lifetime, and thus the sensitized reader can sense (or "be moved by") a phrase like Donne's without necessarily interrogating it for any hard "meaning".
posted by anazgnos at 4:24 PM on June 5, 2017 [17 favorites]


Thanks anazgnos! After a re-read it all clicked much better.
posted by naju at 5:16 PM on June 5, 2017


I've tried to get Dylan before, and I tend to offer that I have to try because his esthetic never got me on its own. I never touched the reaction to Dylan's music that he describes experiencing with Leadbelly--never even came close. But I tried, too, to find something closer to an academic appreciation of his music. His themes are energizing, his form is interesting, his references lead out on a thousand paths, but I still don't put on headphones to just listen. And yet,

We see only the surface of things. We can interpret what lies below any way we see fit. Crewmen walk around on deck listening for mermaids, and sharks and vultures follow the ship. Reading skulls and faces like you read a book. Here’s a face. I’ll put it in front of you. Read it if you can.

And on that note, congratulations, Dylan, on your Nobel.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 5:35 PM on June 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


by gum, he took it serious. thanks, Bob.
posted by mwhybark at 6:37 PM on June 5, 2017


A lot of crappy art of all kinds happens, reaching for meaning. Expecting the meaning to carry anything is not exactly the way art gets made. As you put the sounds together, the colors, the forms, the tones, the nuances, the transitions, the flights, the intimations; meaning is cunning, it destroys the open window, where the viewer my look, may hear, touch, read, and bring what they have brought to the situation. If you are informed you have to believe, first, that is a filter, it disrupts the act of perceiving.
posted by Oyéah at 7:22 PM on June 5, 2017


Magnificent.

In answer to the question of whether music can be literature, he performs his answer, and proves that yes, they are inextricably linked. And ever the trickster, he does it in an old fashion, one which is new for him -- a Beat recital. After such a long career, he goes to a style which immediately preceded his own start. It's a style he would have known and which is recognized as literature and great art, and he inserts himself among the pantheon. And he belongs there. He belongs with Kerouac. He belongs with Melville. He belongs with Homer.

What a storyteller. Well done, Bob.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:22 PM on June 5, 2017 [8 favorites]


Nobody has mentioned how Trump's favorite book All Quiet on the Western Front figured in Dylan's top three.
posted by furtive at 7:48 PM on June 5, 2017


I wonder if it was Bob or the Swedish Academy who decided to score his lecture with a piano.
posted by thecjm at 8:48 PM on June 5, 2017


Great read!

Fun Fact: the lyrics Mr Dylan cites from a Charlie Poole song “You Ain’t Talkin’ to Me” do not feature in the 1927 recording. Nor are they apparent in an earlier version (1909) of the song by someone called Eddie Morton. Possibly from a re-working by someone like Pete Seeger?
posted by Mister Bijou at 1:34 AM on June 6, 2017


I enjoyed that muchly. And I think it's befitting that Dylan decided his Nobel lecture should be a book report. In conclusion, literature is a land of contrasts.
posted by chavenet at 2:51 AM on June 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm curious what kind of lecture Dylan's old hero, Woody Guthrie, would have delivered. Whatever you might say or think about Dylan (I respect his songwriting but wouldn't say I'm an uber-fan), he's come a long way from that young kid imitating his much more direct and plain spoken folk hero. It's funny to me that when people think of folk music now they think of the kinds of abstract, flowery imagery you find in "Blowin' in the Wind," instead of the more raw and I'd argue almost cowboy punk energy of Guthrie and other first wave folkies. It's really hard to imagine Dylan introducing a song with a no frills line like, "Put her there, boy... We'll show these fascists what a couple of hillbillies can do..."

He's moved far beyond those early influences and established himself as an artist and songwriter with a vision of his own. It bugs me a little people think of him first when they think of folk music but that's a minor complaint. He's written some amazing songs and earned his place of prestige partly because he kept growing and evolving.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:01 AM on June 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


This speech is pure Beat Poetry. It connects Dylan with literature in a way I had never considered before. As an above comment said, "He took it serious".

Yes, he did. And he has provided more insight and context into his life's work in this single speech than he has in any interview across the rest of his career.

Thanks for posting this. It's utterly amazing.
posted by hippybear at 4:40 AM on June 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


I have an ambivalent relationship with Dylan, like one would with a difficult parent. But he is a great artist, an actual artist and a rarity for it in his profession, and this is was magnificent writing and insightful on many levels.
Dude still has it all going on.
posted by spitbull at 5:06 AM on June 6, 2017


And agree that this has given me a deeper insight into Dylan's work than anything I've ever read.
posted by spitbull at 5:07 AM on June 6, 2017


> In answer to the question of whether music can be literature, he performs his answer, and proves that yes, they are inextricably linked.

Yes, they are. And yet, writers tend to get literature prizes and musicians music prizes, as odd as that may seem.
posted by languagehat at 7:31 AM on June 6, 2017


And agree that this has given me a deeper insight into Dylan's work than anything I've ever read.

For me, Dylan was a fascinating complex of oft impenetrable mystery for decades, from my initial discovery of him in the early 1970s (as I stumbled into my teens) right up until around ten or twelve years ago when three things happened:

A. the Martin Scorcese documentary No Direction Home (which covers his life and career from birth to 1966 motorcycle accident)

B. Chronicles Vol.1 (basically three chunks of memoir 1961, 1970, 1989)

C. I'm Not There (Todd Hayne's suitably dense yet revealing biopic, in which the words Bob Dylan are never once spoken)

There remained plenty of blanks, of course, but that was a start. I found all three equally compelling. And now we have ...

D. The Nobel Speech

Which fills in a few more blanks. Now we just need the guy to live to a hundred so we can get it all sorted.
posted by philip-random at 8:57 AM on June 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


This deserves a "joyinjune" tag - well it sure gave me joy.
posted by valetta at 2:03 AM on June 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


Did Dylan crib from SparkNotes?
posted by 2N2222 at 3:25 PM on June 18, 2017


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