”Mother of Muses”: the source of Dylan’s inspiration

by Rolf Säfström, Sweden

I have now listened, for more than a month, to the latest Bob Dylan Album, ”Rough and Rowdy Ways”. I’m thankful for being in the same historical time that Dylan gives us so much of his art.

Now I just want to share with you, one of the many thoughts I have about this beautiful album – and in fact simply about one of the songs, ”Mother of Muses”.

I have a theory about it, which I would like to present to you, along with the arguments supporting my point of view that the first spark of inspiration for the idea of writing the lyrics to this song, came to Bob Dylan in the afternoon of 1st April 2017!

I don’t know how long he worked with this song after that moment. But the more I listen to it, the more I am convinced that this is another masterpiece; one of the several he has ”painted”, so far.

He has put in so much of himself, and how thankful he is over the gift he is given, and his ability to be the artist he is.

So what is the source of my theory?

On a Saturday, 1st April 2017, Bob Dylan started his European Spring Tour.

The concert started at 8 pm, in Stockholm. I was there, with my youngest daughter Moa, and I had bought VIP tickets ( 2nd row) for us. I had a little hope that he would receive the Nobel medal on the scene, so I wanted to be there in the historical moment.

We took our seats, half an hour before the concert, filled with expectations.

Just then, a few minutes later, I recognized some well-known people took their places, some rows back, to the left above our seats. It was a handful members of The Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, Horace Engdahl and some more!

I became more excited and I decided to walk up to them and asked, “Has he received his medal already today?”

One representative of the Academy answered, very politely, “Well, this is not official yet, but yes he has!”

So the concert (my 18th since 1978) took place as normal, but that is not a part of this story.

Later the same year Sara Danius, secretary of the Swedish Academy,  wrote a little book about Bob Dylan. (”Om Bob Dylan”, S Danius, Ad Libris 2017) and there she gives us an inside story, about Dylan receiving his Nobel medal, earlier the same day.

It was a small ceremony with just the Academy, Dylan and some of his nearest men. No press, journalists nor photographers. Dylan wanted it that way. Danius writes:

When he had the golden medal in his hand, he turned the backside up, looked at it for a long time and seemed amazed about the motive.

This is a picture of Dylan’s original medal, and it is of Mother of Muses, sing for me…”  

The other picture is of my daughter, just outside the concert hall. As you know, there is no cameras allowed inside, which we all should respect.!

So that’s my theory, and the argument to prove it. I think it is a bit of the truth, but who knows? / Rolf Säfström, Sweden

Best wishes and may God be with You!

Footnote, from the Untold team.  Here’s the setlist from the gig that Rolf attended

  1. Things Have Changed
  2. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
  3. Highway 61 Revisited
  4. Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
  5. Full Moon and Empty Arms
  6. High Water (For Charley Patton)
  7. Melancholy Mood
  8. Duquesne Whistle
  9. Love Sick
  10. Tangled Up in Blue
  11. Pay in Blood
  12. Standing in the Doorway
  13. Scarlet Town
  14. I Could Have Told You
  15. Desolation Row
  16. Soon After Midnight
  17. All or Nothing at All
  18. Long and Wasted Years
  19. Autumn Leaves
  20. Encore:
  21. Blowin’ in the Wind
  22. Why Try to Change Me Now

Mother of Muses: From Mnemosyne to Elvis, Talking Heads to Leonard Cohen

Untold Dylan: who we are what we do

Untold Dylan is written by people who want to write for Untold Dylan.  It is simply a forum for those interested in the work of the most famous, influential and recognised popular musician and poet of our era, to read about, listen to and express their thoughts on, his lyrics and music.

We welcome articles, contributions and ideas from all our readers.  Sadly no one gets paid, but if you are published here, your work will be read by a fairly large number of people across the world, ranging from fans to academics.  If you have an idea, or a finished piece send it as a Word file to Tony@schools.co.uk with a note saying that it is for publication on Untold Dylan.

You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page of this site.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.  Not every index is complete but I do my best.

Tony Attwood



  1. Yes indeed:

    Dylan has more once presented himself as the persona of Apollo stranding at the door:

    ‘And all those who found new arts to make men’s life more blest or fair”
    ~ (Virgil: Aeneid VI) – inscription on Dylan’s medal

    See Untold:” Aeneas Visits Key West”

  2. Academy Secretary Danius published this post on 2 April 2017: “Earlier today the Swedish Academy met with Bob Dylan for a private ceremony in Stockholm, during which Dylan received his gold medal and diploma. Twelve members of the Academy were present. Spirits were high. Champagne was had. Quite a bit of time was spent looking closely at the gold medal, in particular the beautifully crafted back, an image of a young man sitting under a laurel tree who listens to the Muse. Taken from Virgil’s Aeneid, the inscription reads: Inventas vitam iuvat excoluisse per artes, loosely translated as “And they who bettered life on earth by their newly found mastery.”

  3. The final installment of the Nobel speech! How brilliant. How could the album — and M.O.M. — be anything but his response to the acclaim? The Muse sings. What synchrony. How utterly profound. What genius in the Academy saw that if there was any question as to Dylan’s qualification for the Literature prize, it was to be found on the medal itself?

  4. Thanks for your reply of my article.
    I also have thought that the album is an alternative speech, from Men Dylan.
    Wonderful indeed!/Rolf

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *