As we’ve all seen in recent news, this year His Greatness Bob Dylan was nominated for the Nobel Literature Prize, on the premise that he “[has] created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” according to the 2016 Nobel Prize press release.
Dylan finally acknowledged and accepted the award, in case you were wondering.
While there is no denying that Dylan is a legend in the American Folk scene, there is still likely a question in the public mind: what is the big fuss about? Why has Bob Dylan been selected now, before the likes of more classic-form writers such as Cormac McCarthy or Claudia Rankine?
Today, I have compiled a few of the best lyrics of Dylan, to put your wonders at ease.
Blowin’ In the Wind
“Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
From the quintessential Dylan track, “Blowin’ In the Wind,” these lyrics made waves because Dylan had brought a new sense of depth to folk music than had ever been present in the scene before. When one considers folk tunes, the first thing to come to mind is usually fiddles and lyrics full of nonsense. But this song is full of powerful rhetoric, questioning the blindness of humanity.
Because of that boldness, this song became the anthem for the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and echoed through the streets as African Americans struggled for their rights in our country. They took Dylan’s blatant challenge to the human race and appropriated it to their own means, making these lyrics timeless. Ultimately, that sense of immortality is why Dylan deserves this nomination.
The Times They Are A-Changin’
“Come Senators, congressmen,
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall…
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.”
Another song that evokes that immortal relevance is this 1964 song of Dylan’s. Bob Dylan originally wrote these lyrics specifically to be a proponent of change in the world and it made him the “Spokesman for a Generation” in 1964, but I think he is still the spokesperson for our generation. The desperate phrases of protest throughout Dylan’s repertoire are felt in the hearts of countless movements, peoples and causes. Until we have attained unyielding world peace, there will never be a day when Bob Dylan’s lyrics will be irrelevant.
With God on Our Side
“So many mothers cried
Now I ask the question
Was God on our side?”
Specifically, until there are no conflicts among the staggering facets of religion among the human race, the lyrics of “With God On Our Side” will call out every violent proponent of faith. These lyrics deny humanity’s claim to have attained “ultimate truth,” and state that nobody truly knows what side God is on. Nearly every conflict in the world has some relation to a deity’s opinions of morality, and Dylan has obliterated all these stances as irrelevant.
“Well, I try my best To be just like I am
But everybody wants you
To be just like them
They say sing while you slave.”
Not everyone is engaged in a civil rights movement or a religious war. Dylan has lyrics for your everyday human being as well. In “Maggie’s Farm,” the lyrics criticize the ideals of popular culture, and the expectations of conformity that society has for each of us. It is a part of the human condition to feel as though you don’t belong, but Dylan rejects the necessity to conform, encouraging listeners to break the bonds of societal pressures and simply “be just like you are.”
One of these lines of song connected with you, undeniably. We have all felt unwanted and the vast majority of us recognize the constant need for change in the world. Dylan rallies the troops in every generation to stand up for their needs for reform.
When was the last time classic literature did that?