Thursday, October 13, 2016

Nobel Vindication of My Moody Youth: Bob Dylan's Music

The music of my moody youth won the Nobel Prize in Literature today. I feel vindicated for my then-maligned taste, and relieved that the world sees what I saw, heard and felt... and still see, hear, and feel. 

I was deeply obsessed with one album, "Any Day Now - Joan Baez Sings Bob Dylan" a double-album released in 1968, when I was a high school junior. My conservative parents worried I was weird... 

I still have it, my original album from all those years ago.  The only vinyl I've kept, after selling hundreds of others. The album remains part of me. It sits here on my desk, propped against the wall. 

Dylan's most famed tunes... "Like a Rolling Stone," "The Times They Are A-changing," "Rainy Day Women," even the iconic "Blowin' in the Wind"... are not on this album. (I love those songs, too, mind you. Can never refrain from singing along. Just ask my embarrassed husband.)

The album's sixteen powerful tunes, instead, are ones of empathy for others, of struggles of the downtrodden, of dreams for a better life and world.  The poetic songs demonstrated love for others... prisoners, immigrants, drifters... like I'd never before heard, witnessed or experienced, and it touched my heart.  Over and over and over... Still does. There but for the grace of God... 

Included on "Any Day Now," which is the refrain from one of the album's songs, "I Shall Be Released," are:
  • "I Pity the Poor Immigrant"
  • "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word"
  • "I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine"
  • "Tears of Rage"  (with extraordinary acapella by Joan Baez)
  • "Dear Landlord"
  • "The Walls of Redwing"
  • "One Too Many Mornings

And "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," 11 minutes, 18 seconds long, and I knew every word, every breath, every pause.  My poor mother... I must have played this cut a thousand times, and never at low volume, as I immersed myself in feelings of Bob Dylan's sacred lyrics and score. 

"Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound..." wrote the Committee.   And, I might add, the subjects of his music... empathy, struggles, unfairness, rebellion, keenly observed experiences of others... are entirely consistent with the body of literature honored by the Swedish Academy since its 1901 founding. 

Congratulations to the Nobel Prize Committee for Literature for awarding the 2016 award to Bob Dylan "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."   Indeed! 

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