Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize

Article by Seo Young Oh

The Nobel Prize is a set of annual awards given by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of cultural, academic, or scientific advancements. There are winners for the categories of Physics, Chemistry, Psychology and Medicine, Peace, and Literature. The winners for each category are announced in the beginning of October and the award ceremony takes place on the 10th of December, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. Winners are given a gold medal, a diploma and a sum of money. The Nobel Prize is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious awards that can be won in the fields available.

This year, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature was Bob Dylan, the American singer/songwriter that won “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”( Nobel Prize) . He is well known for his songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” , “Hurricane”, “Masters of War”, and “The Times They Are a-Changin” all of which incorporate social, political, cultural, philosophical, and literary influences which helped him defy the boundaries of existing music of his time. He has also won the Pulitzer Prize for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”

English teacher and avid Bob Dylan fan Mrs. Andrea Thompson says, “The HUGE BODY of Bob Dylan’s accolades, awards, discography, art, etc… speaks for itself. His one-of-a-kind voice is recognized around the world. His ability to draw from the greats of the past, sing and tour with the greats of his time, and continue writing and playing with today’s greats (even when he’s an old dude), is unbelievable. Ultimately, he’s an amazing artist and musician. What I love about Bob Dylan the most is that he chronicled history – a troubled time of social upheaval – with beautifully poetic songs. He was honest and straightforward in his lyrics, telling important stories white people didn’t tell (in the “Death of Emmett Hill”, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, and “Hurricane” – stories of injustices served to African Americans). He wrote great Vietnam war protest songs (the sarcastic “With God on Our Side”, the powerful “Masters of War”, and the beautiful “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”). And of course he’s written anthems for the ages that reflect the way the world was changing in the 60s and 70s: “The Times They are ‘a Changing”, “Blowing in the Wind,” “Mr. Tambourine Man”, and “Like a Rolling Stone.”

However, there has been some backlash following Bob Dylan’s win. In an article published in The Telegraph, Irvine Welsh, the novelist best known for Trainspotting, was quoted as saying it was an “ill-conceived nostalgia award” bestowed by “senile, gibbering hippies”. In the same article, Joanne Harris, the writer of Chocolat, questioned, “Is this the first time that a back catalogue of song lyrics has been judged eligible for a literary prize? Or is it just that the Nobel has run out of old white men to award their literature prizes to?” Many other writers stated the award was a missed opportunity to promote lesser-known international writers and “an insult to the work of ten thousand fine writers.”

Regardless, it’s clear that Bob Dylan is a man of many talents.