on October 27, 2016 by in Golden News, Comments Off on Dylan’s Nobel win brings words back to spotlight

Dylan’s Nobel win brings words back to spotlight

Whenever people ask me the stereotypical question –; The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? –; my answer is simple: Bob Dylan.

Apparently the Nobel Prize committee is of the same opinion, since Dylan was just named as the 2016 recipient of the prize for literature.

Depending on one’s familiarity with the literary world, the last well-known winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature was Toni Morrison (the last American who won, it’s worth noting), who received the award in 1993. This makes Dylan not only the first musician to receive the Nobel in Literature, but also the most recognizable name to receive the award in more than 20 years.

The Nobel committee honored Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

But since the award was announced Oct. 13, musicians and critics in print and online have been arguing about the recognition.

Master lyricist Leonard Cohen said Dylan receiving the Nobel is “like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain.” Matthew Schnipper, managing editor of Pitchfork music website, wrote an op-ed stating that everyone already knows Dylan is a genius, therefore the award was a missed opportunity to highlight authors that more people should know.

“But he is a musician, and his relationship with words is as a lyricist, someone whose prose exists inexorably with music. To read his lyrics flatly, without the sound delivering them, is to experience his art reduced,” Schnipper wrote. “Literature is a less glamorous cousin of music. Both may provide portals to new worlds, but presuming they do so similarly because both use words shortchanges the specific merits of either form.”

Tom Waits, owner of one of rock’s other unique music voices, celebrated Dylan’s win. “Before epic tales and poems were ever written down, they migrated on the winds of the human voice,” Waits said in a statement, “and no voice is greater than Dylan’s.”

For Rob Sheffield, author and contributor to Rolling Stone magazine, the committee got the award right because of Dylan’s celebration of –; and experimentations with –; words.

“Of course it’s not poetry, not even sung poetry,” he wrote. “It’s songwriting, it’s storytelling, it’s electric noise, it’s a bard exploiting the new-media inventions of his time (amplifiers, microphones, recording studios, radio) for literary performance the way playwrights or screenwriters once did.”

As a passionate Dylanologist since senior year of high school, it’s not even a debate –; Dylan deserves any and every award people want to give him. His lyrics are some of the best writing –; regardless of form –; in the English language, and his melding of folk, blues, rock and pop is one of the reasons modern music sounds like it does.

But what I like most about the award is the conversation its created, one I think Dylan himself would approve of –; a conversation about the power of words.

Listening to Dylan’s lyrics makes it evident he’s an avid reader. And intelligent people talking about authors and musicians in the same breath certainly seems like a positive outcome.

Dylan once said, “All I can do is be me, whoever that is.”

He has been a troubadour, rock star, actor and activist, among countless other things. But he has always been a writer. So talking about what words can achieve seems like the most fitting tribute of all.

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