Bob Dylan's Nobel Gift | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Bob Dylan's Nobel Gift

The singer-songwriter's Nobel Prize in Literature also represents a victory for his predecessors, peers and successors.



    American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan won the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature on Oct. 13, 2016, a stunning announcement that for the first time bestowed the prestigious award on a musician. (Published Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016)

    Perhaps it's poetic justice: When Bob Dylan takes the stage Friday, for the first time as Nobel Prize winner in literature, he'll be kicking off the final weekend of an epic rock festival featuring fellow music titans Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters, the Rolling Stones and the Who.

    Dylan, as always, will stand alone, even when he's part of a crowd.

    You also could look at Dylan’s Nobel Prize in Literature in similar terms: Sure, his country’s greatest living troubadour won for what the Nobel folks called his creation of "new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." 
    But the honor for the creaky-voiced bridge that spanned folk, pop and rock represents a victory for anyone who ever dared to inject poetry into music of the people and use song to tackle the human condition, writ small and large.

    So Dylan shares the prize with predecessors like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Odetta, Lead Belly, Hank Williams and rock’s first poet, Chuck Berry. 

    Dylan shares the prize with his aging rocker peers at the Desert Trip gig and a slew of other contemporaries – John Lennon, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon, among many more. 

    Dylan shares the prize with his spiritual successors, from Bruce Springsteen to Tupac Shakur to all the music poets yet to come.

    As tangled up in contradictions at 75 as he was at 20, Dylan always speaks, above all, for himself – with wit, passion, anger, tenderness, hope or hopelessness, depending the song, the times and his state of mind.

    But his Nobel Prize, marking authoritarian recognition for an anti-authoritarian herald (“Don’t follow leaders/Watch the parkin’ meters”), resounds with the power of thousands of voices – not just blowing in the wind, but propelling a hurricane of words that can never subside.

    Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.