In 1959, a young singer-songwriter named Bob Zimmerman changed his name. As Bob Dylan, he then went on to change the world. After being lauded for more than 50 years for his songs and lyrics, this icon of the Sixties seemingly had achieved everything possible… and then the Nobel Committee awarded him the Nobel Prize for Literature. But does a writer of song lyrics deserve to be ranked among the world’s finest poets and novelists? Host Jacke Wilson is joined by Mike Palindrome, the President of the Literature Supporters Club, for a freewheelin’ conversation about the legendary Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan Songs:
“Tangled Up in Blue” (performed by K.T. Tunstall); “Lay Lady Lay”; “My Back Pages” (performed by the Byrds); “Every Grain of Sand” (performed by Emmylou Harris)
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“Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).
11 thoughts on “History of Literature #71 – Did Bob Dylan Deserve the Nobel Prize?”
Some people believe fervently that Obama deserved the peace prize.
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Thanks for the comment! Obama’s 2008 victory and what he represented in general (both personally and as a turning away from the Bush years) made him a good candidate for it, but it was a little surprising for someone to win after being in office less than a year, especially since he had not been a public figure for very long before that. As I mentioned in the podcast, I think his speeches and books might have made him a good candidate for a literature Nobel, too, in the Winston Churchill tradition. But I have no objection to his winning the Peace Prize.
I have so much to say after this podcast. Maybe I should use the voice thingy. But then there is a time limit and as my husband would say ten minutes when I get going is like the last ten minutes of a football game.
Well I will give it a go but I wanted to say this is a great conversation about something everyone was / is talking about, and a nice change from politics.
On the subject of politics, I ordered your books for my husband to read and he loves The Race, and wanted me to pass that along. He even read me a few passages and lines he especially liked.
Thank you so much – and happy holidays to you and your husband. I’m so glad to hear he’s enjoying The Race. And of course, I’m very thankful for you and all your support. I’ll look forward to listening to the voice recording. Thanks again – you made my day!
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I’m so glad, and to you and to all of yours-
By awarding Zimmerman/Dylan the prize the Swedish Academy has extended the concept of what we understand to be poetry/literature in Western Europe. Most of the Dylan songs I know come from the period up to 1974’s Blood on the Tracks album. Looking back at the lyrics it is clear where he has taken on poetic tradition and brought it into the modern age and into the sphere of modern culture through the link with music. I am listening to Patti Smith’s rendition of a Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall a couple of times a day as the lyrics are pertinent to the times we live in (the Swedes and Estonian’s preparing for a new territorial attack from Russia) and the beauty of the singing.
However, in my opinion, Steve Earle has now taken over the mantle of poet – commentator on our social and political ills.
And a surprising turn as an actor
on The Wire. Thanks for the comment!
Another example of a song writer who won the nobel prize was Rabindranath Tagore. His song offerings (Gitanjali) read like poetry and can stand alone as literature. He has a large body of work though : plays and novels.
P.S. I love your podcast
Thanks for the comment! I was familiar with Tagore but had no idea he wrote songs. As you suggest, I suspect his novels and plays won him the Nobel, but I’ll check out his songs – they sound intriguing. He’d be a good topic for a full episode, I think. (The list grows longer!) Thanks again!
No problem. I would love to hear an episode on Tagore! If you’re planning to read Gitanjali, read William Radice’s translation – it retains the original structure of the songs and are (in my opinion) more evoking than Tagore’s own English translation.
Here it is:
Both the translations are given: Radice’s followed by Tagore’s
evocative not evoking haha