Well knock me over with a feather: this is something that NOBODY expected, and of course no reader guessed in the contest. My CNN Newsfeed reports this:
The 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to musician Bob Dylan for creating “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
I’m flummoxed, but I can’t say that the man doesn’t deserve it: his songs are iconic and many of them classics. Still, I can’t think of any other songwriter who got the prize for their music. The Indian polymath Rabrindranath Tagore won it in 1913, and had written hundreds of beautiful songs (with words), but he got it for his published poetry, especially the collection Gitanjali. Since it’s a literature prize, of course, no songwriter is going to get it for their music alone; there must be lyrics, and that’s what the prize citation says.
One friend wrote me after hearing the news: “I like his music but he didn’t create anything particularly new.” You could make the case, though, that neither did any writer of fiction. What they created was new imaginings that stirred the emotions, and I’d say that songs like “Blowin’ in The Wind,” “I Shall be Released,” “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” “Mr. Tambourine Man”, and “Like a Rolling Stone” are pretty much sui generis: the musical equivalent of great novels.
Feel free to tout your favorite Dylan songs in the comments. In the meantime, congratulations, Mr. Zimmerman, and I’ll be delighted to see you interact with the King of Sweden.
USA Today ranks all of Dylan’s 359 songs from the best (#1) to worst, but I disagree profoundly with their rankings. For instance, they put “Like a Rolling Stone” at #357! Rolling Stone’s list of his 100 best songs is better, with “Like a Rolling Stone” at its proper position at #1. Such are the disparities of taste. But I know of no better song about Schadenfreude for someone who’s fallen from the heights. Here’s a live version from the infamous 1965 Newport Jazz Festival, in which Dylan was booed by his fans for “going electric.” (The famous organ riff, by the way, was devised by Al Kooper.)