On October 16, Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first musician to ever win the prestigious award. Dylan has been a respected artist since his emergence in the 1960s, influencing the world with his poetic lyrics and music. The Nobel Prize is considered a great honor–but does he deserve it?
The Swedish Academy’s decision to award Dylan the Nobel Prize has sparked debate about whether or not song lyrics hold the same artistic license as novels or poetry. The prize has traditionally gone to celebrated authors like T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett, but this year, it made a dramatic shift to lyrics and music. I agree with the committee if it rewarded Dylan for his prolific work, which has spanned 50 years and left a remarkable impact on society. However, Dylan is still a highly unusual choice considering that he is a musician and not an author. Dylan’s body of work doesn’t fit within the standard concept of literature, but his songs can certainly be considered poetry.
Though I’m not entirely familiar with Dylan’s political songwriting in relation to the “revolutionary” period of the early 1960s, I do understand how influential his songs were during that time period, beginning with his acoustic efforts as part of the Folk movement and then progressing to performing with an electric band. Dylan’s lyrics and music in both mediums resonated to a large audience who created their own interpretations, much like the readers of a book. When Dylan went electric, folk music fans believed he sold out, but instead he went on to produce some of his most creative work in the subsequent years. By choosing Dylan, the Academy is also going against their own traditions, but could be starting a new precedent for years to come.
I think the award is deserved, even though I don’t personally agree with the way Dylan has responded to it with an extremely delayed acceptance. Music is a huge part of people’s lives. Just as someone has a favorite book, they have a favorite song. It’s beneficial for the Swedish Academy to break free from previous standards because it radically changes the world’s perception of the organization as a whole. Sometimes boundaries need to be redefined. Bob Dylan might not have swiftly answered the Swedish Academy’s knock on his door, but it doesn’t make the award any less deserved.
By Julia Sicklick