April 20, 2017
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Bob Dylan: Now Literature Nobel Winner
by Steven Middlestein
Bob Dylan at a ferry landing in Aust, England,1966, the 'Don't Look Back' tour. photo: © Barry Feinstein
Morrison Hotel Gallery
WHAT MORE CAN POSSIBLY BE SAID
Above and beyond his own lyrics, of course, compiled over the course of 37 studio albums, of which one album includes enough poetry to fill five other oeuvres?
Or Martin Scorsese’s masterful “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” (American Masters, PBS, 2005), which reveals the inner Dylan.
Or D.A. Pennebaker’s monumental “Don’t Look Back” (1967), which has the external Dylan dialoguing in code with British rock royalty and the press? It also has Dylan denying Joan Baez, his lover and career booster as well as America's folk queen, a place on the stage, simply because Dylan is demonstrating how a man, a harmonica, and a guitar, armed with all those songs, can conquer England. (Scorsese has some of the same worshipful fans—after Dylan went rock, reviling him to hell.)
Or the adulation of almost every critic—although
claims his freshly won Nobel Prize for Literature (2016) was a travesty, denigrating actual authors in the time of the dying book (while rock is doing fine).
Or the Lebanese-American 19 year-old woman I met, who came up from Monterey to listen from behind the back fence to Dylan’s June 10th performance at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, as he sang mostly Frank Sinatra covers, other American Songbook and even Irving Berlin. While the other kids I talked to at the show were confused, even bored, by Dylan's attempts to sing standards with his substandard voice, she found it fascinating. The master of all things American and visionary, with whom she has been obsessed with since 13, is trying to tell his own story in song, she said.
Or Leche, a Brazilian guitarist who sang a number of Dylan tunes in ENGLISH, even though he couldn’t speak the language, simply because “it was like a new old Testament” he told me.
Bob Dylan in Duluth, Minnesota, 2013. photo: courtesy Clint Austin | AP
Or that fact that he tours incessantly? Or that he never plays the accepted arrangement of his own classics, except for “All Along the Watchtower” 1967, which he does in the standard Hendrix version.
Or that in his off-time, when he isn’t touring or writing or raising six children, he welds together large, highly artistic, wrought-iron gates, which he sells for a lot of money or gives away (it doesn't really matter, ultimately) to his elite neighbors In Los Angeles.
Or that he can remember all his lyrics? Or that he did a Victorian Secrets ad, doubling down on his “No Direction Home” remarks about not having a career or career plan and doesn’t have anything to hide?
Not to mention, that as of October 18th, the Nobel Committee was still unable to locate Mr. Dylan...
… not much.
UPDATE: Dylan did finally contact the Nobel Committee, after they started to excoriate him for being rude, mercurial, irresponsible—but on November 16th, he confirmed: He would not be attending his induction ceremony, although he is obliged to make a valedictory speech within six months of his award.
Steven Middlestein is a writer, editor and movie fanatic and can be reached
Posted on Oct 13, 2016 - 07:38 PM