By Mike Sutter
Bob Dylan, one of the most celebrated songwriters in pop music history, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
There certainly is no argument that Bob Dylan was a trailblazer who created new paths of expression and new ways of storytelling. That alone may indicate he is qualified for the Nobel Prize. Songs such as “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” spoke volumes about civil rights, war and the end of the world.
Reactions have been divided. Musicians, poets and other artists appear to feel a sense of validation with the award. On the other hand, bookworms and writers seem to treat the award as a lazy choice and one that downplays the accomplishments of more deserving authors.
Actor and musician Jeff Daniels responded to the award with a single celebratory tweet saying “Yes. Yes. Yes.” Poet and journalist Pritish Nandy also responded via Twitter, stating that “some of the world’s greatest songwriters have also been its finest poets.” Roseanne Cash, daughter of legendary singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, tweeted “Holy mother of god. Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize.”
Popular author and Long Island native Jodi Picoult tweeted “I’m happy for Bob Dylan. #ButDoesThisMeanICanWinAGrammy?” Writer Gary Shteyngart lamented “I totally get the Nobel committee. Reading books is hard.” Accomplished novelist and playwright Irvine Welsh scathingly wrote “I’m a Dylan fan, but this is an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.”
Some felt that the award was an affirmation of white male privilege. African-American blogger Shay Stewart Bouley disparages the award, saying it honored “peak white man music.” Huffington Post editor Chloe Angyal tweeted “Literally zero women were awarded Nobels this year. Maybe someone can write a poignant, gravelly, somewhat atonal folk song about that.”
Breaking from the trend, horror author Stephen King stated “I am ecstatic that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel. A great and good thing in a season of sleaze and sadness.”
Bob Dylan responded to the honor by saying nothing, instead choosing to amend his show’s set list that night. Instead of playing “Masters of War” during his encore, he opted for one his signature songs, “Like a Rolling Stone.” He ended the show with a standard from the Great American Songbook, Coleman and McCarthy’s “Why Try to Change Me Now.”