“don’t criticize what you can’t understand” – Naomi

News broke early this morning that Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition” and I could not contain my excitement. As such, I’m hijacking this week’s blog post to discuss this incredible turn of events.

Bob Dylan is an incredible singer/songwriter whose career has spanned over 50 years. And he is so much more than “just” a musician. Dylan’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and his advocacy of moral issues through the 1960s is undeniable. Songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” were a part of the soundtrack of protest from events surrounding inclusion of black people in restaurant diners to the Cold War. Whether or not you enjoy his particular style of music, it is impossible to deny the impact he has had. But does this make him worth of a Nobel Prize? In literature? Yes. Yes, it does.

According to the Nobel Prize website, the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded to a candidate who has been nominated by a member of one of the following categories:

  1. Members of the Swedish Academy and of other academies, institutions and societies which are similar to it in construction and purpose;
  2. Professors of literature and of linguistics at universities and university colleges;
  3. Previous Nobel Prize Laureates in Literature;
  4. Presidents of those societies of authors that are representative of the literary production in their respective countries.

This is quite a distinguished group to belong to. After the nomination process, months are spent in the process of narrowing to a winner who must receive more than 50% of the academy’s votes. This is quite the vetting process, but can it include a non-traditional artist such as Dylan?

Many songwriters have delicately straddled the lines between pop culture and poetry. Tupac Shakur is another artist whose lyrics sometimes doubled as poetry (in addition to the poems that he wrote and published). This lead to UC Berkeley offering a brief course in the late 90s focused on the life and writings of Tupac.

Ultimately, I can’t see a compelling argument as to why Bob Dylan should have been excluded from the nomination process, nor why he should not have been selected as the winner. My excitement comes from my hippy heart, and also from a place of legitimizing various artistic art forms. I love Shakespeare. And I love Dylan. And they are both artists who spoke to a wide swath of people and deserve to be celebrated.

Congratulations, Bob Dylan. I’ll see you Sunday night in Phoenix.


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