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You Can’t Always Get What You Want



A lot of people are talking about Bob Dylan getting the Nobel Prize.

What say you?

15 Responses

  1. I love that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize. His contribution towards the Arts and humanites is enormous. And he’s one Nobel winner for literature that I’ll remember!

  2. The answer, my friend…

  3. Gilgamesh might start to get nervous if Bob can last another 4,950 years, but then Gil might not be around. Depends on people. So much depends on people. I love the drama, but the suspense is going to kill me.

  4. “Don’t think twice it’s alright.”

  5. Perfect choice!

  6. “It’s All Good.”

    Although it made me wonder, has no one written a book worthy enough this year?

  7. Who’d a-thunkit? It was as though a door opened onto a room no one suspected was there.

  8. Here’s what my son said. It’s long, but I think very interesting and not something I’ve read elsewhere.

    I can’t help being exhilarated by Dylan’s Nobel win. This is a man whose music is, if I’m really being honest, a foundational element of my life and personality. But the win gives me pause too. And I don’t think it bothers me for any of the reasons I’ve heard talked about. Yes, there’s a problem of form and genre here, but it’s not a problem that insults or cheapens or dilutes the Nobel or the world of literature. It’s a problem that insults Bob Dylan’s art.

    Throughout my obsession with Dylan, I’ve been bothered by those who damn him with faint praise by emphasizing the literary quality of his lyrics. The classic form of this is, of course, the idea that he can’t sing but he sure can write. But there are more subtle forms as well. Some claim that Dylan’s work lacks melodic and harmonic ingenuity, that he is a brilliant lyricist but an unremarkable composer. Some would go a bit further, describing him as an artist who merely recycles traditional musical structures as a kind of generic substrate for the true literary genius that gets layered on top. But this is all wrong.

    Dylan’s genius is musical. It’s musical in a way that involves, words, yes: phrasing, timing, subtleties of vocal tone, the interplay between musical shifts and textual meaning. But it is also musical in a way that transcends words: the gorgeous arc of a pitch-perfect melody, the sweep of a plunging chord progression, the delicacy of a fingerpicked acoustic guitar, and the perfect crafting of an arrangement

    On the radio this morning, I heard a commentator reminding listeners that literature has an important performative component, an oral tradition, as if this alone made it right to give Dylan the Nobel. But the recitation of an epic poem is not Dylan’s art. Give the poet a harp and a melody, then okay, sure. But then that poet, whatever he was in his time, should be viewed from our vantage point as Dylan’s musical ancestor and not his literary one.

    Likewise, Dylan’s artistic heirs are not writers. They are musicians, all of them, from rock to hip hop, from folk festival stages to the legions of living room strummer-scribblers like me. And I do think the Nobel Committee for Literature understands this. They were careful to cite the “great American song tradition” in their announcement. But nevertheless, I see this great moment of triumph as implicated in a broader cultural conversation involving an undercurrent of dismissal and a misunderstanding of Dylan’s importance.

    By all means, let’s point out the artistic merit of great pop culture, though I don’t think this is as pressing a matter as it once was. But let’s do it in a way that honors the actual traditions that these artists inherit, contribute to, and, as in Dylan’s case, revolutionize.

    • Jody, thank you for sharing your son’s remarkably well-voiced and astute viewpoints. I sent them to my own son, himself a musician and devotee of Dylan. It is debatable if, stand alone, Dylan’s lyrics lose some of their potency without the arc, sweep and delicacy of his music, as your son so aptly expresses.

  9. Dylan sure can write, and he is influential, but is no one else (especially a woman, especially a woman from a developing country) writing?

  10. There are a few great poets who have put their words to music — no easy task — and Bob Dylan is the best.
    And think about this: 55 years (or more) of writing. A troubadour. A well deserved honor.

  11. “The only thing we knew for sure about Henry Porter, was his name wasn’t Henry Porter.”

    Brownsville Girl Bob Dylan ( Robert Zimmerman )

    Rainy Day Women #12 & #35 Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re trying to be so good They’ll stone ya just a-like they said they would They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to go home Then they’ll stone ya when you’re there all alone But I would not feel so all alone Everybody must get stoned.

    Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ ‘long the street They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to keep your seat They’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ on the floor They’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ to the door But I would not feel so all alone Everybody must get stoned.

    They’ll stone ya when you’re at the breakfast table They’ll stone ya when you are young and able They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say “good luck” Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone Everybody must get stoned.

    Well, They’ll stone you and say that it’s the end Then they’ll stone you and then they’ll come back again They’ll stone you when you’re riding in your car They’ll stone you when you’re playing your guitar Yes, but I would not feel so all alone Everybody must get stoned.

    Well, they’ll stone you when you walk all alone They’ll stone you when you are walking home They’ll stone you and then say you are brave They’ll stone you when you are set down in your grave But I would not feel so all alone Everybody must get stoned.

    Written by Bob Dylan • Copyright © Bob Dylan Music Co.

    Sent from my iPhone


  12. Well, it was pretty much between Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Although if you’ve read Lenny’s novels, you might wonder why they gave it to Bob instead of him.

    Then again, Dylan had me at:

    “Up on the white veranda
    She wears a necktie and a Panama hat
    Her passport shows a face
    From another time and place
    She looks nothing like that
    And all the remnants of her recent past
    Are scattered in the wild wind
    She walks across the marble floor
    Where a voice from the gambling room is callin’ her to come on in
    She smiles, walks the other way
    As the last ship sails and the moon fades away
    From Black Diamond Bay”

    If you’re not gonna give the Nobel to a genius who’s been chronicling the changin’ times and telling us stories worth listening to for so many years, who are you gonna give it to?

    • Besides which, a muso was due — it’s a bit over a hundred years since they gave it to Tagore, who was pretty much the Dylan (or Cohen) of his time. Just sayin’.

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