Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize Part 1.

By Larry Fyffe

Naysayers and the the connoisseurs of ‘high art’ alike claim Bob Dylan is not deserving of the Nobel Prize in Literature because, for one thing, the singer/songwriter/musician is not that familiar with those artists considered worthy thereof.

I beg to differ – Bob Dylan makes it clear that he is quite aware of the works of a number of Nobel winners – often brought to his attention through watching movies.

There’s Rudyard Kipling, for example:

The finest man I knew
Was our regimental 'bhisti', Gunga Din
He was Din, Din, Din
(Rudyard Kipling: Gunga Din)

The song lyrics beneath mention the darkly humorous 1939 movie based thereon, starring Carey Grant:

Clouds so swift, and the rain falling in
Gonna see a movie called 'Gunga Din'
(Bob Dylan: You Ain't Going Nowhere)

An early humorous poem by the singer/songwriter refers to Nobeller TS Eliot:

I thought she was hip
When we sat and drank coffee
And I flipped when she recited 
All of 'Prufrock' by heart
(Bob Dylan : Untitled Poem)

Dylan’s certainly aware of Nobel-winner Steinbeck’s ‘Mice And Men’ – through the well-known ‘Beat writer’ for one, who refers to a film starring Burgess Meredith:

Once I went to a movie
At midnight, 1940, 'Mice
 And Men', the name of it
(Jack Kerouac: Mexico City Blues)

The song lyrics below refer to the 1950 movie titled “The Gunfighter” – Kerouac’s off-hand style of writing paid tribute to in the lines below (as in “You Ain’t Going Nowhere”):

Well, there was this movie I seen one time
About a man riding 'cross the desert, and it starred 
Gregory Peck
(Bob Dylan: Brownsville Girl ~ Dylan/Shepard)

Below, an example of Kerouac’s casual and wordy style:

… but burn, burn burn, like yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the  blue centerlight pop …”

(Jack Kerouac: On The Road)

Dylan has a little fun at the Beat’s expense though Jack is not a Nobel Prize winner:

Build a fire, throw on logs, and listen to it hiss
And let in burn, burn, burn, burn on a night like this
(Bob Dylan: On A Night Like This)

But all kinds of tributes as well:

No one in front of me, and nothing behind

(Bod Dylan: Things Have Changed)

A Dylanesque twist on:

Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me ...

(Jack Kerouac: On The Road)

The following verse comes from a poem that’s written by a Nobel winner:

It wasn't the King of Diamonds 
Nor the Joker she drew first
It wasn't the King or Queen of Hearts
But the Ace of Spades reversed 
(WH Auden: Victor)

Tribute is paid thereto in the following song lyrics:

Back stage the girls were playing five-card stud 
by the stairs
Lily had two queens, she was hoping for a third 
to match her pair ....
Lily called another bet, and drew up the Jack of Hearts
(Bob Dylan: Lily,  Rosemary,  And The Jack Of Hearts)

Song lyrics below are from a 1964 movie, based on the play “Pygmalion”:

And, oh, what a towering feeling
Just to know that somehow you are near
The overpowering feeling 
That any second, you may suddening appear

(Bill Shirley: On The Street Where You Live)

The lines from the song beneath indirectly pay tribute to George Bernard Shaw, a Nobel winner – referencing, not without humour, the above song from the movie “My Fair Lady” based on  Shaw’s “Pygmalion”:

But, oh, what a wonderful feeling
That just to know that you are near
Sets my heart a-reeling
From my toes up to my ears
(Bob Dylan: The Man In Me)

Writes a Nobel Prize winner, the verse below:

I will find out where she has gone
And kiss her lips, and take her hands
 And walk among long dappled grass
(William Yeats: The Song Of The Wandering Aengus)

Rather directly alluded to in the following song lyrics:

You gonna have to leave me now, I know
But I'll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
(Bod Dylan: You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go)

 

 

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