Even though it is undeniable that Bob Dylan is one of the greatest songwriters in the great American songwriting tradition, but does this make the “old hippie” the most unseemly Nobel Literature laureate ever?
By: Ringo Bones
When the news first broke out that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Literature Prize for 2016, many of my “audio-buddies” immediately quipped “who will the Nobel Committee award for next year’s Nobel Literature Prize – Tori Amos, Liz Phair?” Despite of the inextricably unprecedented move, the Nobel Committee did state their justification for awarding the 2016 Nobel Literature Prize to Bob Dylan – but is Bob Dylan, despite his great musical achievements since the 1960s, truly deserving of the Nobel Literature Prize?
Bob Dylan’s place as one of the world’s greatest artistic figures was further elevated on Thursday, October 13, 2016 when Dylan was named the surprise winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. After the announcement, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, said it had “not been a difficult decision” and he hoped the Swedish Academy would not be criticized for its choice.
On Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Literature Prize win, Swedish Academy secretary Sara Danius advised those unfamiliar with the works of Dylan to start with the 1966 album Blonde on Blonde in which she said “I’s an extraordinary example of his brilliant way of rhyming, putting together refrains, and his pictorial way of thinking.” Though to me at least, Bob Dylan’s 1975 album The Basement Tapes is the one that faithfully captures Dylan as a singer songwriter.
Whether or not Bob Dylan is truly deserving of the 2016 Nobel Literature Prize could be down to how the Swedish Academy interpreted Alfred Nobel’s original will governing the rules of awarding the Nobel Literature Prize. Originally interpreted as embracing not only writings in the field of belles-lettres (i.e. beautiful writing of artistic merit), but also of other works provided they possessed literary merit. Given this rather still-ambiguous clarification, Bob Dylan winning the 2016 Nobel Literature Prize could be justified – but should Tori Amos and Liz Phair or other great singer-songwriters should be in the running for the Nobel Literature Prize?