Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first song-writer to receive the world’s most coveted literary award. Wow!
Of course Dylan is not only a song-writer and singer. He has written prose as well as verse, painted, acted, but to my mind beyond all these, been. Dylan has been an amazing force in the cultural life not merely of his native United States, or even the Anglophone world, but every country on earth. More than 50 years since he began to perform, he is still out there – apparently in Las Vegas as I write.
There is a post on this blog about him, and he figures in another, “Fifty years with and without Frank Sinatra.”
It is often said that Dylan’s words are what matter and that he can’t sing. This is, like much else about the man, very unfair. Dylan chooses to sing as he does, and his voice is an effective instrument. True, the words stick with us, but so does the sly, insinuating, intelligent voice that brings them to our ears.
The words do matter. They are important for what they say, and for the devices they use – as a writer, Dylan is a true genius.
But he is much more than that. He has made the words matter by who he is, has opened doors for artists of every stripe, legitimised what was previously unthinkable in popular music but far beyond it. The huge cultural changes that have taken place in my lifetime have been charted but also partly created by this elusive force for good.
Thank you, Bob.