Born on May 24, 1941 in Minnesota, Bob Dylan (named after the poet Dylan Thomas), originally named Robert Allen Zimmerman is a world renowned singer, songwriter and artist. He began his musical journey as a folk singer but later re-established himself as the voice of many political, social, cultural and philosophical protests. His first album labelled ‘Bob Dylan’, released in 1962 and since has sold more than 100 million records, making him one of the best-selling artists of all times.
Bob Dylan has toured almost constantly since June 7, 1988 for his “Never Ending Tour” and by May 2013, he and his band had played more than 2,500 shows.
His elliptical yet expressive style of writing united with riveting musical composition awakens meaningful emotions making him a source of fascination for artists, fans and critics. The Oxford Book of American Poetry included his song “Desolation Row,” in its 2006 edition, and Cambridge University Press released “The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan” in 2009.
He has so far received some of the world’s most acclaimed honors including Grammy, Academy and Golden Globe awards. In 2008, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize “for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power” and the Presidential medal of freedom in 2012. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and later in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. But the most serendipitous win of all was the literary world’s highest honor, ‘Noble price for Literature’ that was awarded to him on 13th October, 2016 “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition” making him the first singer-songwriter and also the first American since Ms. Morrison in 1993 to win this award.
With this award, the Swedish Academy surely redefined the scope of Literature thereby closing the gap between the written and expressive forms of literature. He was chosen by the 18 members of the academy according to the terms stated in Alfred Nobel’s will and will receive an 18-karat gold medal and a check for $925,000.
But this win created a stir amongst people, striking a debate. While some people celebrated his win others questioned the decision. However, it wasn’t the first time a non-poet/ non-writer has received the award. In fact, in 1953, Winston Churchill was awarded the Nobel prize “for his brilliant oratory brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values” and Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarussian journalist won the Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”.
People supporting his win have correctly rationalized his work as nothing less than poetry considering the fact that song-writing requires the same discipline as any other form of literature. Many have described his songs as poetry for the ears that is as interesting and thought-provoking on paper as it is to the ears. The permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius was quoted drawing parallels between Dylan’s work and that of great Greek poets like Homer and Sappho who wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to.
Bob Dylan has successfully redefined not only the face of music but also literature making him the most sensational song-writer, poet, musician, singer and artist of all times.