October 13, 2016 is down in the history books. Out of all the recipients of the Nobel Prize for Literature, I believe Bob Dylan (A.K.A. Robert Zimmerman) is the most famous. It seems like an unlikely choice, being he is a rock musician, but I understand. I think it is a wonderful way to bring forth past beneficiaries into a new light. Maybe somebody will be inquisitive and seek out these authors? As for Dylan, it’s been around a day, and he hasn’t said much of anything about it. His promotional official Twitter feed mentioned it, but that’s the extent of it all. He has been known to say that these sort of honors get in the way of him making art.
Who is Dylan and why does he deserve this accolade?
Bob Dylan is more known for being an American songwriter for the better half of the last century. He is 75 years old, and still touring. Back in the early sixties, he was given the title as the “voice” of his generation. With such songs as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changing”, he created folk anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements. Jane Maslin wrote, “These were the songs that established [Dylan] as the voice of his generation—someone who implicitly understood how concerned young Americans felt about nuclear disarmament and the growing movement for civil rights: his mixture of moral authority and nonconformity was perhaps the most timely of his attributes.” ( Maslin in Miller (ed.) Miller, (1981), The Rolling Stone History of Rock & Roll, 1981, p. 220). He left the folk community behind him shortly after his initial success and decided to plug into an amplifier and pluck away on a Fender Strat instead. “Like a Rolling Stone” reached number two on the US charts for twelve weeks behind The Beatles, “Help.”
Can Dylan be considered a poet?
Of course he can. Let’s break down some lyrics to one of his songs, “Tangled Up in Blue”.
“Early one mornin’ the sun was shinin’
I was layin’ in bed
Wondrin’ if she’d changed at all
If her hair was still red
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like
Mama’s homemade dress
Papa’s bank book wasn’t big enough
And I was standin’ on the side of the road
Rain fallin’ on my shoes
Heading out for the east coast
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues
Tangled up in blue”…
“She was workin’ in a topless place
And I stopped in for a beer
I just kept lookin’ at the side of her face
In the spotlight so clear
And later on as the crowd thinned out
I’s just about to do the same
She was standing there in back of my chair
Said to me, Don’t I know your name?
I muttered somethin’ under my breath
She studied the lines on my face
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces
Of my shoe
Tangled up in blue”
These are “multidimensional” lyrics that have no set notion of time or space. He reflects on the early moments of a relationship, from where they met in a “topless place”. She “studied the lines” on his face and decidedly did something so sweet as to help him tie his shoes. In the first verse he eludes to how her parents did not approve, and establishes a bit of foreshadowing.
“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”
A wonderfully written passage, candidly stark and yet powerful. He traveled to find work and maybe find his way, but always thought of her. Nobody can escape the past, just as surely the future has yet to happen.
“So now I’m goin’ back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives
But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point
Tangled up in blue”
He resolves to get out there and rekindle his relationship with the woman he lost. The people from his past are merely a memory to him now. He hasn’t, but is seems everybody he knew back then has changed. Maybe she has too?
And in conclusion…
There are many literary allusions peppered into his multitude works of art. He has admitted to using other works of poetry as inspiration. On top of everything,he has published works of poetry and prose such as his 1971 collection, “Tarantula” and memoirs “Chronicles: Volume one” from 2004. His song, “Desolation Row”, was included in the Oxford Book of American Poetry 2006 edition. When the Swedish Academy bestowed this honor onto Dylan, they did so knowing it wouldn’t be without it’s controversy. But it has definitely made the news, everywhere from established press to lowly bloggers like me. In turn, bridging the gap between commercial success and high-end art.
I got a good amount of information from these:
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