The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016
The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2016 is awarded to Bob Dylan
"for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".
The choice came as a surprise to many – also to me, in one way (not having dared to guess that they’d actually choose him), but not in another (as I’ve actually been thinking before that his lyrics would be worthy of it).
Yesterday evening I was listening to some experts on TV making guesses about likely candidates. In the background they were showing a film clip with the camera sweeping across piles of books in some book shop; among which I also spotted Dylan’s memoirs – which made me wonder a little… However, his name was not mentioned in that TV discussion. But it made the thought cross my mind again: Yes, why not?
Today I forgot to watch the official press conference (at 12:50, European time) – but I found out soon enough (within an hour or so, via FB). And thought: Yes!!!
While my personal favourite *star* in the heaven of music back in my mid teens was (and still is) Paul Simon, Bob Dylan was/is up there as well – and at least as much for his lyrics as for the music. Dylan’s album New Morning (1970) was among the first LP records I owned. I did not have a lot of records back then, but those that I did have were played all the more often – on the small travel gramophone I had in my room.
I also remember going to the library in town with a friend to listen to music there. They had these big comfy armchairs, side by side, where two people could sit and listen to the same record, each with your own set of headphones. You had to ask the librarian to put the record on (the player was behind their desk). But we got to borrow the cover or booklet with the lyrics on, so that we could study those while listening. And I remember us pouring over the lyrics of Dylan (and Simon & Garfunkel, and Leonard Cohen); and looking up words we did not know; and discussing meaning and context... Ever since back then, the lyrics have been as important to me as the music, and I always get severely disappointed if the lyrics aren’t included when I buy a music album.
I was never such a ‘fanatic’ fan that I have collected all of Dylan’s albums. (Far from!) But those I have are from different periods in his career. Besides the New Morning one from my teens, and a couple of retrospective “Best Of” and Bootleg ones, I have three from his most obviously religious period in the late 70s/early 80s (Slow Train Coming, Saved, Shot of Love); and also some of his 21st century ones: Modern Times, Together Through Life, Tempest. Among my books I also have his collected lyrics from 1962-2001 in book form; and his memoirs (Chronicles, Volume One; but in Swedish translation).
All in all, Bob Dylan has been a “presence” in my life through 45+ years… And for me, it’s the first time I’ve been able to say that about someone who has been given the Nobel prize during my lifetime!