The Nobel Prize in Literature – something every writer,
whether veteran or aspiring, dreams of winning as the ultimate award, has been
recently awarded to legendary singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan. The decision went
on to spark an intense debate as to whether a musician is eligible to win the
Nobel Prize in Literature or not on social media, news channels, schools and
colleges across the world. Personally, I was totally with the decision.
Bob Dylan to me was introduced through Steve Jobs’ biography
where it is mentioned quite a few times that he is the Steve’s favourite
musician. During their first meeting in 2005, Steve Jobs asked him to play Mr. Tambourine
Man for him which he later went on to describe as “an almost ethereal
experience”. Too much in love with the book and a music lover since forever,
this set me off on a quest to discover the world of Bob Dylan, one that would
impact me like nothing else.
What sets apart Bob Dylan’s music so distinctively from
today’s music or even from the music back then is how beautifully it is
juxtaposed between the civil unrest in America and the rise of the
Opposing the youth slogan of the age, “Free Love, LSD and
Rock”, Dylan’s intricately beautiful lyrics and soulful guitar play focused on
tackling the issues that Americans were facing back in the day, instead of
Throughout his life, Bob Dylan has been affected by various
historical movements such as the end of the Second World War, the Cold War, the
rise of Rock n Roll, the assassination of John F. Kennedy to name a few, all of
which were captivated in his music.
This is why he was not born an idol, but used his
surroundings to build his legacy. Although he never participated in politics
explicitly, he has gone on to insist time and time again that politics is an
integral part of what he writes.
While a song like “Blowin’ in the Wind” aimed at questioning
the futility of war, “Like A Rolling Stone” talked about the US blindly holding
on to past glories. “All Along The Watchtower” pointed out the exhaustion of
the Americans at all the propaganda that radios blasted back in the day whereas
“Mr. Tambourine Man”, with its graceful lyrics is all about being young without
worrying about life too much. And these are just a few among many songs which
Dylan wrote and sang, each of which can be interpreted in one’s own way.
If one’s searches on the internet or Googles his name,
hundreds of wondrous songs, all of which are in a world of their own will pop
up. Listening to these will make you realise that you are not just listening to
music, you are listening to history in a nutshell, the building blocks of the
world that we live in today.
In his song, “The Times They Are A-Changin”, he points out
how the world around us, regardless of what happens and what doesn’t, will keep
on changing and that we will continue to adapt to it, much like how the times changed
when the Swedish Academy decided to award him the Nobel Prize instead of
acclaimed writers like Salman Rushdie and Haruki Murakami.
While many might claim that the Nobel Prize in Literature is
deserved by writers in general, it is rather dismissive to claim that Bob Dylan
does not deserve it, for in reality, the music in his songs was secondary to
the words in them. Bob Dylan is all about lyrics ~ambitious, odd, beautiful and
uniquely put together, it was through his words that he went on to inspire a
generation of musicians.
To say that the award is deserved only by someone who writes
novels is confining literature to just books. Even Rabindranath Tagore won his
Nobel Prize for the Gitanjali, a book of song offerings. Therefore, giving this
award not only is a method of revering this man’s impact on society, but also
cementing the infinite quality of literature.
He may not have been responsible for the ideologies of the
movement, but he provided the ‘emotional drive’ behind them. Dylan took into
account everything that was happening around him and translated it into poetry,
and then set them to music. In this way,he liberated the minds of the
people,protested peacefully and changed the face of music forever.
Coordinator, Class XI, Julien Day School, Kolkata