Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan performing in 2010

So now the dust has settled I feel the time is right  to say my piece about Bob Dylan winning the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. I think it’s brilliant. The old goat doesn’t need and maybe thinks he doesn’t want it but he certainly deserves it.

From the slight skip in his step and occasional half smile witnessed during his  performance at the Desert Trip Festival in California over the weekend one could even conclude that he was experiencing a certain degree of enjoyment.

Of course he didn’t mention the Nobel thing, in fact he didn’t mention anything, remaining characteristically mute between songs. However the general consensus among the long-serving Dylan watchers who scrutinised and analysed that show in the desert on Friday night was that they had just seen one of his best concerts in a very long time indeed.

That’s the thing about Dylan - his concerts range from magnificent to mediocre. The trick is to catch a good one. Over the past 40 years I’ve seen him in London, New York and the provinces. Only one those shows was really exceptional and that was in Bournemouth. It was amazing. Yet the following night at the same venue with the same band he played an absolute stinker. 

Equally in New York City it seemed as though he was just going through the motions.The support act, Merle Haggard as it happens, blew him off the stage. Now that’s not supposed to happen.

 It’s odd because it’s not the musicianship and it’s certainly not the material. It’s a communication thing and a willingness to engage that Dylan appears to have little control over. 

Which brings us to those mean-minded nay sayers who expressed horror at the announcement of his Nobel Prize.

Most I suspect wouldn’t have uttered a word if they hadn’t been goaded into it by the media but the world’s news industry loves nothing more than stirring a hissy fit or two. 

So we were told by some that it  was ridiculous and the prize should have gone to Philip Roth or Thomas Pynchon, by others that it shouldn’t have gone to a songwriter and particularly not a white, male one.

The truth is that the vast majority of people were only too pleased that Dylan walked off with the prize. The Nobel citation stated that that he was receiving the award for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”  

This is something he has undoubtedly achieved over his 55 year career. For however haphazard the performances, however gravelly the voice, the songs are masterpieces and their lyrics - so often inseparable from the recorded works - have touched us all. 

Bob Dylan is a worthy Nobel Laureate.

© Jeremy Miles 2020