2016 was a year that many of us will remember because it was as horrific as a year could be. 2016 was horrible for a variety of reasons; celebrity deaths like, Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Harper Lee, Merle Haggard, and Prince; the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union, and Donald Trump was elected the President of the United States. However, out of the steaming mess that 2016 was, there were a few bright spots, and one pertained to Bob Dylan. Dylan, 75, not only survived
However, out of the steaming mess that 2016 was, there were a few bright spots, and one pertained to Bob Dylan. Dylan, 75, not only survived 2016, but was finally given adequate recognition for his contributions to the world literature by being the recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. While some have come out against the decision to give the prize to the famed songwriter, others have quickly come to his defense, such as Stephen King.
As one might expect, the Swedish Academy has come under a great deal of fire for selecting Dylan, a songwriter instead of an author, for the honor. In a statement, from the Swedish Academy, given to defend the decision, Horance Engdahl said, “By means of his oeuvre, Bob Dylan has changed our idea of what poetry can be and how it can work. He is a singer worthy of a place beside the Greeks, beside Ovid, beside the Romantic visionaries, beside the kings and queens of the Blues, beside the forgotten masters of brilliant standards…If people in the literary world groan, one must remind them that the gods don’t write, they dance and they sing.”
There may be those who still feel that Dylan is undeserving of the Nobel Prize in Literature; however, it is hard to see why. Dylan, throughout his career, has been known as many things: a folk singer, a rock star, a country singer, a gospel singer; but more importantly all of these make up a bigger thing that Dylan has been known as, the voice of a generation.
Dylan’s music has not only touched every genre, but his lyrics have touched some of the greatest social issues of the last 60 years. Dylan is the man who wrote songs such as: “Oxfordtown,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and “A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall.” These songs, and many others were used as rallying cries during the Civil Rights Movement, and he performed moments before Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. While these songs would be considered great accomplishments for a songwriter’s career, this was only one aspect of Dylan’s lyrical abilities, and only within a two years.
Beginning in 1965, Dylan stopped writing protest songs and began experimenting with songs with fantastic new imagery and what some may even call absurdist lyrics. Songs like, “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Visions of Johanna,” and “Desolation Row” show examples of Dylan’s growing lyrical capabilities into rhyme, imagery, and flat out absurdism. Dylan’s advances, both musically and lyrically, fell between 1963 and 1970, a feat that is unmatched. Even the Beatles never achieved the sort of advancement in style that Dylan accomplished in such a short period of time.
Also, outside of writing protest songs and experimenting with several literary styles; Dylan is also known as one of the greatest love songwriters of all time. Songs in his repertoire include: “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright,” “It Ain’t Me Babe,” and “Make You Feel My Love.” These songs have been covered, and or made hits, by various artists including: Adele, Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, and John Mayer.
Dylan not only delved into every musical genre that was available in his time; he also delved into numerous lyrical styles, and often serving as the pioneer for these styles. Dylan’s contributions to music and literature paved the way for many other great writers like Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, the Beatles, and Joni Mitchell.
2016 was definitely a year that many of us would love to forget. However, while it may have been bad at least the rest of the world got the memo that Bob Dylan is the greatest songwriter of all time and deserved recognition for his contribution to music and literature. He changed music and opened the door for singer/songwriters who wished to write and sing about issues that they cared about; and because of his contributions, he received the Nobel Prize in literature.
– Mason Boyd