Nobel Prize Blows In The Wind
Bob Dylan has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for literature, becoming the first songwriter to win this highly acclaimed award. Dylan is best known for his music and became a world hero to many in the 60’s with his songs about social change, peace and love. His early work such as ‘Blowing in the wind’ and ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ became strong anthems for the American civil rights and anti-war movements.
He was one of the first true singer songwriters, whose impact spread all around the globe. His music had a resonance of its own and seemed to typify what was happening not only in the world but what people were thinking and feeling. Although Dylan never claimed to be any spokesman or prophet. He simply wrote and performed his songs that are still played and thought over today. A small, thin man with a gravelly voice and guitar that moved a generation.
Although seen primarily as a folk singer, some of his work was criticised by traditional folk movement groups for their use of rock music to accompany the tracks, but Dylan did it his way and paid little attention to critics and opinions. Now aged 75, living quietly in Los Angeles he respects other singer song writers saying ‘I’m in awe of McCartney. He’s about the only one that I’m in awe of. He can do it all. And he’s never let up’. Both him and Paul McCarthy grew up in the same era if not country and were united in their different compensations in changing the face of the musical world.
Bob Dylan always said of himself ‘I consider myself a poet first and a musician second’, such recent recognition seems to underpin his own feelings on his work. ‘It ain’t the melodies that’re important man, it’s the words’ he exclaimed. Not all musicians would agree with him on that point as the melody and arrangements are one of the main reasons the public get into the songs. Dylan’s music has been covered over the years by several other artistes and indeed orchestras, such was its impact. His life, history and music have frequently been examined in documentaries and books as well as musical quizzes.
It must be remembered this prize is for Dylan’s lyrics to his songs and not the music (which has already been recognised and truly acclaimed). Can we have one without the other? Well maybe, as University literary lecturers and critics have long believed his lyrics belong also in the category of important poetry from the standpoint of structure, resonance and meaning. This prize may now redeem former Professor of Poetry at Oxford University Christopher Rick’s respect and admiration for Dylan’s written word. His book ‘Dylan’s Visions of Sin’ which look at his lyrics and work from the standpoint of the ‘seven deadly sins’ and the ‘four cardinal virtues’ seemed bizarre to some, and questioned what the respected author on poetry was doing. This Nobel literary prize was awarded to Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
An illustrated colour poster of Dylan drawn by the famous artist Milton Glaser was contained in his album ‘Bob Dylan’s Greatest hits’ (1966) which is considered now to be a symbolic poster which sums up the feel of sixties with its rainbow colours depicting Dylan’s hair, along with its shapes and styles. This sixties period is currently being celebrated in the Victoria and Albert’s museum exhibition – ‘You say you want a revolution?’ records and rebels 1966-70 depicting the fashions, statements and personalities of a time.
Below is an example of some of Dylan’s lyrics:
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ‘n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND, 1962
Copyright 1962 by Warner Bros. Inc. Renewed 1990 by Special Rider Music
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’
Copyright 1963, 1964 Warner Bros. Inc. Renewed 1991, 1992 Special Rider Music
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.