On Thursday, famous singer and songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is now in a select company which includes T. S. Eliot or Gabriel García Márquez. At 75 years old, Bob Dylan is the first ever musician to receive the prestigious award. But the decision is considered to be extremely controversial. Many people believe that by doing this, The Swedish Academy has greatly moved the borders of literature as we know it. This decision has started a debate on whether song lyrics should from now on be considered prize worthy literature.
A controversial decision
There is no doubt that Bob Dylan has been one of the greatest lyricists the word has produced. Along with some other great artists like Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, he has given some amazing pieces of poetry to the world. But critics cannot help but wonder if what Bob Dylan writes is indeed poetry. Furthermore, if it is award winning poetry. And if the style of Bob Dylan can be compared to established writers like Pablo Neruda.
It seems like the Swedish Academy thought so. Undoubtedly, Bob Dylan (who’ s real name is Robert Zimmerman) is one of the most cherished and gifted artists. He is present on both Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame and has been awarded with a Grammy and an Oscar. In addition to these prizes, he also has a Presidential Medal of Freedom, a National Medal of the Arts and a Pulitzer Prize. But many people have said that maybe this was not the best move.
The Swedish Academy motivated their choice as an award for the impact and motivational valor of Bob Dylan’s lyrics. Critics had a contradictory opinion regarding this. Alan Light, a music journalist, has said that their reasoning is not entirely accurate because most of the times, the Nobel prize does not have anything to do with influence or popularity. It only has to do with quality. This is why sometimes the Nobel Prize in Literature laureate is pretty unknown to the vast majority of people.
In the eyes of many, poetry and lyrics are not the same thing. An explanation would be that if you take out the melody and leave the lyrics, they may not sound very poetry-like. But a poem will always sound good, it will always flow, no matter if it is accompanied by a melody or not.
Still, many important figures of the literature world have congratulated Bob Dylan on his award. Among them were names like Stephen King, Robyn Hitchcock and Salman Rushdie. Music critics on the other hand could not help but wonder what took the Academy so long to give a Nobel Prize in Literature to a songwriter. Have there not been amazing lyricists until now? Hard to believe. It may have something to do with Dylan’s notoriety and lifetime career. But maybe the best reaction came from Jodi Picoult who congratulated Dylan for his award. But, as a best-selling novelist she wondered if she could now go on and win a Grammy award.
Bob Dylan himself had nothing to say about the honor, while president Barrack Obama called him one of his favorite poets. But all this controversy aside, Bob Dylan has managed to make history. For him and for the world. Be it the world of music or literature.
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