Thoughts on Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize Will Van Dalsem October 17, 2016 Music 513 Tweet Share Share Email WhatsAppShares 0Last week, legendary folk singer and songwriter Bob Dylan (born Robert Zimmerman) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Critics seem to be praising this decision as “redefining boundaries of literature”. However, I’m not so hot on the move. It’s not that don’t think Bob Dylan was, and is, a poet. He’s one of the best lyricists of all time, for sure. But does that make him an author, comparable to the likes of T.S. Elliot, Samuel Beckett, and Toni Morrison? I don’t think so, and here’s why. I’ll readily admit that I’m not really a literature person, but I am a person that loves consuming media because of its ability to spark genuine emotion. Music is my medium of choice, and I definitely believe lyrics in music have the ability to captivate listeners. When Kendrick Lamar raps “So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street/When gang-banging made me kill a n**ga blacker than me?” on “The Blacker the Berry”, chills shoot down my spine every time. But can we attribute those chills to Kendrick’s lyrics alone? Or is it those bars in combination with the jarring instrumental and Kendrick’s impassioned vocal delivery that stir emotion inside of me? There lies the conundrum. Sure, Dylan’s a great lyricist. But he also utilizes instrumentation, melody, vocal inflection, and dynamics to cause listeners to identify and feel. T.S. Elliott and Samuel Beckett only had words on a page. Looking at the issue in this way makes it seem like Bob Dylan cheated. Unless the Nobel Committee analyzed only Dylan’s words and had never heard them in the song context, which seems unlikely, then his award appears unjustified. Maybe Dylan feels the same way. He is yet to comment on his win. I’m glad Dylan is getting the recognition he deserves. I just wish he was being recognized a more appropriate sphere.