By: Jason Smith ~Staff Writer~
Everyone has a Bob Dylan story— the first time they heard him, the first time they heard someone cover his songs, the first time they imitated him. Bob Dylan’s words and music are deeply woven into the tapestry of America.
Before he was a Nobel Laureate, he was just a kid from Minnesota who wanted to hang out with Woodie Guthrie. Then, young Robert Zimmerman crafted an image for himself, taking the name of one of his heroes, Dylan Thomas, and with that one of America’s greatest lyricists was born. It wasn’t overnight. He worked at it. He covered folk songs nobody heard of. He found his voice.
Then things changed. He stopped being a folk artist and decided to plug in. Dylan had become the Judas Iscariot to the folkies and the heads. The Newport Folk Festival performance was famous for the boos that Dylan received. In hindsight that seems foolish, but for many, going electric threatened their status quo.
He was revered in the ‘60s by the “people in the know.” His ode to the freaks of the time, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” was the perfect song for the angst of that generation. It was the song that you had to know what it was about to know what it was about. The heads found it. Not long after that, he recorded another anthem.
“Like a Rolling Stone” exemplifies some of the best music Dylan has to offer. Plugging in only made Dylan’s voice stronger. The music has a frenetic pace to it. The anger the poor girl Dylan sings about insinuates that she never had a chance. The music speeds along as she is informed of her status. “How does it feel?” This is the power of Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan isn’t perfect. He hated parts of the fame. He got in a motorcycle accident. He recorded a quiet album in Woodstock while he retreated from the world. Later, he released an album to ridicule the critics who claimed everything he did was brilliant. Dylan is just like all of us. Sometimes it all isn’t all that important, and we have to remind people of that.
When we stop and listen to the words that he has set to music and contemplate what they really mean, we find a deeper understanding of ourselves. Bob Dylan’s voice guided generations through many changes.
Bob Dylan is on a never-ending tour. He performs big band standards music now. He’s probably played every type of venue there is. Bob is still always changing it up.
There are websites devoted to guessing what songs he may perform. Universities teach us about him, including Xavier’s freshman seminar taught by Dr. Graley Herren. It doesn’t matter if it is philosophy or English, Dylan’s words are equally applicable.
Not only is it appropriate that Bob Dylan is the recipient of Nobel Prize for Literature, it is necessary. In a time when the news is all turmoil, how great is it that one of America’s greatest artists is honored like no other? The honor is fitting in many ways. They are lyrics, but they are so much more. They are prose. They are poetry. They are stories.
Bob Dylan is more than the sum of his words and songs through the years. Bob Dylan is an American icon unlike anyone before him. His Nobel Prize is ours and his.