Nobody living can ever make me turn back…
Bob Dylan was just given the Nobel Prize for literature. I’m not certain on the criteria of it all…how a songwriter wins an award seemingly reserved for poets and dramatists and novelists….but what the hell. Dylan’s footprint is the size of continents….and words are words, whether they appear on pages….in scripts, or are shouted out from a million beer-soaked microphones over the last 50 years. Dylan works the language like a painter works a canvas…and to the pissy high-brow novelists and their recent snarky tweets….all I have to say is go fucking write something as good as “Every Grain of Sand” and maybe you’ll win an award someday too. It ain’t his fault your 500 page novel isn’t as cinematic as “Tangled Up In Blue.”
This day and age I look for good news like this. It means somebody has balls….even if it may just be a roomful well-read old Swedes swilling martinis. But I’ll take it brother. I’ll take it. I live in a land of stupid……a place where the only respite from blowhardism is earbuds jammed into the side of my head and the volume set to 11. Northeast PA has increasingly become the place where brain cells go to die….so I don’t just reach for proof of intelligent life, I scratch and claw at it like a dying man trying not to tumble off one of our endless mountains.
Bob Dylan. Recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. That is badass.
Dylan single-handedly took “I want to hold your hand” and changed it to “how does it feeeeeeel!”. He made it ok to jam the entire world into a 3 minute pop song. Every single songwriter who came along after Dylan owes him thanks….and most of the ones who were here before him subsequently developed that glazed look…..like ducks hit over the head. Early retirement beckoned…thankfully.
When the prize was announced Dylan was preparing for yet another show in yet another town in yet another theater on yet another tour….and true to form he said nothing. No press conference. No social media post. No official statement. He just pulled his hat down over his eyes, played his show, got on his bus, and headed for his next one. He’ll talk it when he receives it….unless he’d just rather they mail it to him. That would be rock and roll. But I suspect his love of words will get the better of him, and he’ll wish to somehow address the controversy of the selection in his own, unique, byzantine way. Because, it’s easy to forget, it’s not his prolonged silences that intrigue us as much as what builds up in his head between them. To put it another way…the world listens when he talks precisely because he’s not popping off every 6 minutes about what everybody else is popping off about.
Bob Dylan does not do mundane.
I’m hearing the same silly “can lyrics be poetry?” argument. To which I always reply, “why would they want to be? I fucking hate poetry.”
Really, does it matter? If the goal is to move the listener, then Woody Guthrie is our Keats.
Nobody living / can ever stop me / as I go walking / that freedom highway
Nobody living / can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me….
You got anything better than that? I’ll wait while you peruse your Shakespeare.
There would not be a Dylan without Woody….so work it out for yourselves.
Bob Dylan changed the world. He altered the landscape. He changed the conversation. He crashed a party he wasn’t invited to. He taught us our own songs before he started creating his own. And when his own got so wild they needed electricity to be harnessed, alone with his polka-dot shirt and his sunglasses he created rock and roll 2.0…where nothing was off the table and you no longer needed forks and knives to cut something. That wild, mercury sound was its own scythe….and finally his brilliant wordplay met its match……like Ali being defined by Frazier.
That sounds pretentious as shit I know. But, hell….NOBEL PRIZE yo! Maybe I am reading a little too much into “Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar”, but I ain’t gonna apologize. Because it’s only rock and roll. And I like it. It’s poetry too. It’s novelistic (even if that’s not a real word). It’s drama.
Words. Read them Sing them. Chant them. Memorize them. Scream them. Do they inspire? Do they demand reckoning but don’t insist on blood? Then they are literature.
In a bit..