Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize in Literature

Today Bob Dylan won the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature with the board honouring Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

The news has been met with some criticism from some traditional writers who are angry with the decision to pick a songwriter over novelists and traditional poets. But the majority agree this is a well-earned honour.

Bob Dylan made his first studio recording in 1963 and has since released 37 studio albums alongside countless compilations of live and unreleased material. Dylan has been a keen student of American song styles with his work taking in folk, rock and roll, rockabilly, gospel, country and jazz.

Bob Dylan display
Bob Dylan display at Central Library Manchester. Flickr 2016-10-14-IMG_6418

He initially created Woody Guthrie styled topical protest songs instantly winning widespread acclaim and adoration. This earned him the title “voice of a generation” a description he balked at. By 1964 he had abandoned politics for more complex and surreal imagery. When he started integrating these with hard rock and roll he created a sound and style that could be the most influential in 20th century music.

A complex and enigmatic character, Dylan has always been prolific, amassing a huge backlog of unreleased live and studio recordings, with many surpassing the quality of his officially released catalogue. As they are slowly made available to the public it has become clear that Bob Dylan has created one of the most important bodies of work within popular music.

Bob Dylan display
Bob Dylan display at Central Library Manchester. Flickr 2016-10-14-IMG_6416

The Nobel Prize for Literature has often been a magnet for controversy, facing criticism for who it has chosen, who it has left out and where the prize recipients have come from. Through all this it has remained one of the most prestigious literary awards and the list of past recipients is a who’s who of the world’s greatest writers.

The astounding quality and impact of Bob Dylan’s work surely earns him the right to win this award.

Simon Hall
Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Happy Birthday Robert Zimmerman

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Time Out of Mind Dylan's Visions of Sin Studio A

A strange young man called Dylan
With a voice like sand and glue

Dylan’s Visions of Sin

When I was at university a professor of mine, Christopher Ricks, would give a yearly lecture on a particular Bob Dylan song. He was a mega-fan and had bootlegs galore which he would play and postulate on why a particular word or phrase was substituted. Each song was stripped down to the nth detail in his on-going quest to convince us all that Dylan is a modern-day prophet. Maybe not everybody’s idea of musical enjoyment, but we always left with something to think about and the song, invariably,  never sounded the same again.

Poking around, I see that Christchurch City Libraries has a copy of the book he wrote about Bob Dylan.  In it, he discusses the seven deadly sins, the four virtues and the three graces and how Dylan addresses each of them in his writings. This is your book for minute dissection of song lyrics.  

If this much detail is a little too much, you can always check out Chronicles I, written by Dylan himself, Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home, or even the Bob Dylan Encyclopedia.