Bob Dylan‘s recent nomination as winner of the Nobel Prize for literature came as a bit of a surprise for many, yet those who have listened to his music over the past 40-plus years, are all cheering on the sidelines. We know that this is not a tortured soul who struggled to write; his words and ideas flow from an unnamed, inchoate source, words like waterfalls feeding the barren landscapes of our minds, the imagery conjured up out of our perceptions and experience and coalescing into anthems that served us well in turbulent times. His many, many songs found a niche in our hearts as he wrote about the human experience: the common bond of love, hate, revenge and stories that make up our cultural psyche.
My favorite poet songwriters are Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison who bring a depth to their writing; Dylan’s sometimes facile meanderings have not always resonated with me, but that is my preference since it mirrors my own inner search to find meaning in my life. The subtle references in their songs to a deeper inner struggle, and a profound connection to something greater than themselves makes them timeless. They are not mere story tellers like Dylan; they probe the intellect and and the choices we make in life, the struggles and joys, the love and angst that make being human worthwhile.
Other writers such as Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins (and there are many more from the era of Folk Music) achieved the same kind of wordsmithing beauty that soothed the aching heart, and it was set to music that speaks to cross-generational lines.
How fortunate was I to have grown up at that time, when music meant something, when it wasn’t just a beat and nonsensical rhymes filled with trivialities, innuendo and scatological references. The evanescent quality of today’s music does not appeal to me at all, it has become a background noise which I prefer to avoid.
To date there has been no word from Mr. Dylan about accepting his Nobel prize. This is his choice. He never tried to appeal to the mainstream and always followed the dictates of his own sensibilities. Whether he publicly accepts or rejects the honor makes no difference, his poetry is forever part of our culture.
Image of Bob Dylan and Van Morrison:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/artists/bob-dylans-20-musical-heroes/