The Times They Are A Changin’

Bob Dylan playing at the recent Azkena rock festival in Barcelona,Spain in 2010
Bob Dylan playing at the recent Azkena rock festival in Barcelona,Spain in 2010

The Award

A couple of weeks ago (October 13th, 2016), the Nobel Prize Committee in Sweden awarded Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature. This particular award has raised some eyebrows, since even though Dylan has penned one autobiographical book, Chronicles (2004), and one book of poetry (1966), called Tarantula, he is not really considered a literary writer. There is even a sequel to Chronicles in the works, but no one, not even Mr. Dylan knows when the manuscript will actually be released to the general public.

Here, is what Mr. Dylan will receive at the awards ceremony. (if he shows up)
Here, is what Mr. Dylan will receive at the awards ceremony. (if he shows up)

Bob Dylan, the Songwriter

What Bob Dylan did do, was to create a body of music and lyrics that has rocked the music industry since the early 60s. Undoubtedly, it is this accomplishment that has earned him the prestigious award and the large sum of money ($900,000) that comes with the little piece of gold. Starting out as a protest folk singer, the Minnesota native has continued to produce new and intriguing music right up to the present day. Some of his lyrical masterpieces that may have helped him earn the award, could include such timeless hits, as Maggies Farm, Desolation Row, Positively 4th Street, Like a Rolling Stone and My Back Pages. Of course any list like this, is highly subjective, as is the award itself.

P.S. His last two releases, Shadows In the Night (2015) and Fallen Angels (2016) consist almost entirely of Frank Sinatra covers.

A Proverbial Can of Words

My first reaction to the announcement that Dylan had been nominated for the award, was one of surprise, for this seemed to be a major change in direction for the Nobel Committee. True, it has been over a hundred years since the first awards were passed out by the Swedish and Norwegian (Peace Prize only) delegates, but still this choice has the airs of travelling down a new road that will forever change the nature of the highly-regarded, Literature Prize.

The new direction seems unfair and perhaps disrespectful to all the writers across the planet who work daily in creating words that communicate to readers instead of those who prefer to get their words of inspiration from the international music industry. All in all, this is not a good development that may lead to problems in the not-so-distant future. Perhaps, creating a special award for songwriters would be a better alternative.

Rigid Guidelines

Over the past two weeks since the award was announced, I have undergone a gradual transformation in my thinking. For one, I have always admired Bob Dylan for creating an oustanding musical and lyrical body of work. There is absolutely, nothing superficial about what the man is done.

What is important in considering the importance of this choice, is the way the Nobel awards are set up. Created in 1900 by the Swedish scientist and inventor, Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Foundation only gives out medals in the endeavors of literature, chemistry, physics, peace and medicine, which is sometimes referred to as physiology. Nothing less, nothing more. And since all this is willed by the late Mr. Nobel, there is no way to change the categories, except by expanding the intellectual ground that each award covers.

So this is why I am more excepting of the commitee’s choice and I do look forward to see who in the near future will receive the literature award.

Public Announcement

Yesterday, October 28, 2016, Bob Dylan finally responded to the Nobel Committee, which for the last two weeks, had been trying to contact the reclusive American songwriter. In a statement sent to the Nobel Committee, he said he would accept the prize and also attend the awards ceremony in December, if he could. This closes a two-week period, when no one knew whether or not Mr. Dylan would accept the award or attend the award ceremony.

This modest house in Hibbing, MN is where Bob spent his younger days
This modest house in Hibbing, MN is where Bob spent his younger days

Remembering John Lennon

John Lennon rehearses Give Peace A Chance by Roy Kerwood, courtesy of Wikipedia
John Lennon rehearses Give Peace A Chance by Roy Kerwood, courtesy of Wikipedia

Yesterday marked the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon’s death, or assassination, as some people like to call the tragic event. I missed the hour long CNN special that was broadcast over the weekend airwaves, but did get a chance to see Chris Mathews jump  into the subject with both feet on “Hardball”.

As usual Chris was his old, brassy self, as he put together a rousing tribute to the fascinating personality that has been sometimes called the true songwriting genius behind the Beatles. Leaving this little bit of controversy aside, Chris tackled full-heartedly the emergence of the Beatles at a time, when the country was mourning the death of JFK and in desperate need of an uplifting event. And according to Mr. Mathews that uplifting event came in the form of four mop-topped musicians from Liverpool, England.

The JFK event was an interesting analogy that definitely caught my ear and gave me something to think about, especially since I am old enough to remember both the JFK assassination and the release of the first pair of Beatle songs (She Loves You & I Wanna Hold Your Hand) in America just a few weeks later.  Whether the two events are related or not, I don’t know, but they are without a doubt important cultural happenings that occurred in close proximity.

The other interesting point that Chris brought up was the distinct, yet sometimes discrete, anarchistic and revolutionary tone of the Beatles, in general, and more specifically the funny and irreverent attitude of John Lennon.  All in all, Chris’s presentation was a fascinating read on a stormy time in history.

Moreover, through the backward gaze of time, the Beatles stand out not so much for their musical accomplishments (which were many), but for the fact that we got to see all four band members as distinct individuals. No major musical group since that point in time has ever the matched what the Beatles did in the mid-sixties. The Rolling Stones were overshadowed by Mick Jagger, the Police by a bass player named Sting, The Band, featured Robbie Robertson, and Diana Ross was the big name to survive the breakup of the Supremes, but the Beatles remained the “Fab Four”. John Lennon came closest to eclipsing the Beatles as a single performer, but he never really succeeded in that regard and it is quite possible that he was just being himself during the years after the Beatles broke up.

Montreal-Skyscape
View of Montreal, the city where John and Yoko Lennon recorded "Give Peace a Chance".