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Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate

by Jonathan Bloy on 2016-12-06T08:48:00-06:00

Book cover: Revolution In The AirIn October, the Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize in Literature honored Bob Dylan with this year's Nobel Prize.  He is the first songwriter to be awarded the prize, which traditionally has been given to authors of poetry, short stories, and novels.  The award ceremony will take place on December 10.

The academy awarded the Nobel Prize to Dylan "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

A strong case can be made that indeed, what Dylan writes is poetry.  Clinton Heylin, who wrote several books on Dylan, asserts that "Chimes of Freedom" was written during one of Dylan's conscious attempts at being a poet (2009, pp. 176-180).

"Chimes of Freedom", from Another Side of Bob Dylan, 1964

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.
And the poet and the painter far behind his rightful time,
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

One could also argue that the story telling aspect of many of Dylan's songs is worthy of the Nobel Prize.  My favorite example of such story telling is "Tangled Up in Blue."

"Tangled Up in Blue" from Blood on the Tracks, 1975

I had a job in the great north woods,
Working as a cook for a spell.
But I never did like it all that much,
And one day the axe just fell.
So I drifted down to New Orleans,
Where I was looking for to be employed.
Workin' for a while on a fishin' boat,
Right outside of Delacroix.
But all the while I was alone,
The past was close behind.
I seen a lot of women,
But she never escaped my mind,
And I just grew,
Tangled up in blue.

Interested in learning more about Bob Dylan's song writing?  Check out the following books, all available at the library.  Or better yet, hear the Nobel Laureate sing them himself.  Our library has an extensive collection of Bob Dylan's music available for checkout.

Selected Bibliography

Heylin, C. (2009). Revolution in the air: The songs of Bob Dylan 1957-1973. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press.

Heylin, C. (2010). Still on the road: The songs of Bob Dylan, 1974-2006. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press.

Hinton, B. (2006). Bob Dylan complete discography. New York, NY: Universe.

Ricks, C. (2004). Dylan's visions of sin. New York, NY: Ecco.

Jonathan Bloy
Head of Digital Initiatives


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