Friday, October 21, 2016

Dylan Nobel Laureate: Bobcats vindicated

We always knew it would happen.

We Dylan people – call us Dylanologists or Bobcats or Dylanites -- knew all along that Bob Dylan is a poet, a genius of word and music, and he should win the Nobel Prize for literature sooner or later. 

We’re glad it was sooner and while our 75-year-old Nobel Laureate is still touring. He was playing Vegas on Thursday, October 13, when his selection as recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature was announced. 

Today's Bob Dylan, from a 2015 cover story in AARP magazine

The Swedish Academy cited Dylan’s “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” He is the first songwriter and musician to be so honored in the prize’s 115-year history and the first American to win since Toni Morrison in 1993.

Already, Dylan has won Grammys, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, Kennedy Center honors and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., and he's written a bestselling, award-winning memoir, 2004's Chronicles Volume One. Still the NOBEL is a BIG DEAL, and still some folks are critical of his being chosen for the award and of Dylan himself, but that's nothing new. 

The day the prize was announced, I posted the news on my Facebook page (but should have posted on the multiple Bob Facebook groups I belong to). I read media coverage from across the globe which included comments from detractors who bristled and complained about a musician winning the coveted literary prize.

Bless their hearts.

Many more folks, however, think the Nobel prize for literature is absolutely deserved by an artist who has spent more than 50 years writing original songs that changed popular music and continue to inspire musicians and others.

One of the best comments from a pro-Bob expert came from former United Kingdom Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion, who said Dylan’s songs work as poems. His songs have “extremely skillful rhyming aspects to them,” Motion said. “They’re often the best words in the best order.”

Writing the “best words in the best order” is the goal of any writer – of songs, prose or poetry, blog posts, fiction or non-fiction – even for this newspaper reporter turned communications manager turned freelance writer, blogger and hopeful author of a still unpublished novel.

Writing the best words in the best order remains a challenging goal every time I write.  This quest and appreciation of writers and songwriters who do just that brought me to Bob Dylan in the first place. And, with each new discovery within his exhaustive body of work, this word nerd admires Dylan all the more.

Dylan’s songs express emotion, tell stories, talk of love and hate, of God and the devil, of women quite often and of mankind’s humanity and our search for more.

For most every emotion and situation, there are Dylan lyrics, Dylan words, to express what we are feeling with the best words in the best order.

Here are a few examples of how – through any emotion, situation, life lesson or human foible – we can find timeless truth in the poetry and prose of Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate. 

Narrowing down favorite and Nobel-worthy lyrics from Dylan’s songs from 38 studio albums has taken time. There are so many carefully placed words, lines and stanzas and not enough time or blog space.

Below, after the lyrics, I list the song, date originally published and the album(s) the songs are on -- in case you need more. If you are a music lover -- if music makes a difference in your life -- and you don’t know the full range of Dylan’s work, I urge you to listen, with open mind, ears and heart, to the music with the words of this legendary wordsmith and musician. 

General wisdom and truths:

“Money doesn’t talk, it swears.” 
“It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), 1965, Bringing It All Back Home

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” 
Subterranean Homesick Blues, 1965, Bringing It All Back Home

"Lot of things can get in the way when you’re tryin’ to do what’s right."
-- Honest with Me, 2001, Love and Theft

 "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose..."
-- Like a Rolling Stone, 1965, Highway 61 Revisited

“Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain.”
 – Not Dark Yet, 1997, Time Out of Mind

“Well, my parents they warned me not to waste my years
And I still got their advice oozing out of my ears..” 
Honest with Me, 2001, Love and Theft
Genius at work:
Bob Dylan, circa 1965, about the time he
went electric with Maggie's Farm
and Like a Rolling Stone. 

On growing up:

Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift..."

Subterranean Homesick Blues, 1965, Bringing It All Back Home

Just because:

“Well, my back has been to the wall for so long, it seems like it’s stuck
Why don’t you break my heart one more time just for good luck..” 
Summer Days, 2001, Love and Theft

On politics:

"While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States

Sometimes must have to stand naked..."
-- It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), 1965, Bringing It All Back Home

On War:
You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther

When the fast bullets fly
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never

Forgive what you do
—Masters of War, 1962, Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

On things going wrong:

“Broken hands on broken ploughs
Broken treaties, broken vows
Broken pipes, broken tools
People bending broken rules
Hound dog howling, bullfrog croaking
Everything is broken.” – Everything is Broken, 1989, Oh Mercy

– Everything is Broken, 1989, Oh Mercy
Dylan on MTV's Unplugged in 1995

On questionable fashion choices:

“You know it balances on your head
Just like a mattress balances
On a bottle of wine

Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat.”

Well, if you wanna see the sun rise
Honey, I know where
We’ll go out and see it sometime
We’ll both just sit there and stare
Me with my belt
Wrapped around my head
And you just sittin’ there
In your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, 1965, Blonde on Blonde

When you’ve had enough of that crazy boss:
“No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more

Well, he hands you a nickel
He hands you a dime
He asks you with a grin
If you’re havin’ a good time
Then he fines you every time you slam the door
I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more..” 
-- Maggie’s Farm*, 1965, Bringing It All Back Home

* Note:  Maggie’s Farm is the song Dylan played as hfamously went "electric,” stunning the crowd at Newport Folk Festival in July of 1965.

On folks always criticizing: 

"They’ll stone ya when you’re at the breakfast table
They’ll stone ya when you are young and able
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck
They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say, “good luck”
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned
Well, they’ll stone you and say that it’s the end
Then they’ll stone you and then they’ll come back again
They’ll stone you when you’re riding in your car
They’ll stone you when you’re playing your guitar
Yes, but I would not feel so all alone

Everybody must get stoned.."
-- Rainy Day Women #12 & 25, 1966, Blonde on Blonde 

On change:
(My theme song when I was downsized)

“Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose
Any minute now I’m expecting all hell to break loose
People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed..”
-- Things Have Changed*, 1999, The Essential Bob Dylan

Note* This song won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for best song in film for The Wonder Boys 

On faith:
“I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand..”
    --  Every Grain of Sand,1981, Shot of Love*
*Note: Shot of Love was one of three Christian albums, including Slow Train and Saved, the Jewish-born Dylan recorded after becoming a Christian (I think he still is…)

On faith and service: 
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
n      -- Gotta Serve Somebody, 1979, Slow Train Coming

Dylan sings with 
Van Morrison and The Band's 
Robbie Robertson 
at The Last Waltz concert 

On two-faced folks:

“You got a lotta nerve
 To say you are my friend
When I was down
You just stood there grinning
You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that’s winning..”

n  -- Positively 4th Street, 1965, Biograph/The Essential Bob Dylan/Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits

On life... and all you want for your children and others you love:

“May you grow up to be righteous

May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
-- Forever Young*, 1973, Oh Mercy

*Notes: 1. Forever Young was first performed by Dylan live with The Band at the farewell concert and film, The Last Waltz.
2. My last will and testament states that this song is to be played at my memorial service, proving I'm a Bobcat to the end and that his lyrics can sometimes say what we want to say better than we can.

For when that haughty someone gets his or her comeuppance:

From Dylan's most famous song, Like a Rolling Stone, recorded 51 years ago and called by Rolling Stone magazine “the single best song of all time.”

“ You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you 
You never understood that it ain’t no good 
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you 
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat 
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat  
Ain’t hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it’s at 
After he took from your everything he could steal
How does it feel/To be without a home/Like a rolling stone/
Like a complete unknown/Like a rolling stone."
--Like a Rolling Stone, 1965, Highway 61 Revisited/The Essential Bob Dylan/Bootleg series/several other live and best of albums
I could keep on and on quoting Dylan lyrics to make my point about the rightfulness of America's rock's poet laureate winning the Nobel Prize. These are just some of my favorites. 

What are your favorite Dylan line, lines or songs?

Picture of the Day:

Bob Dylan and his Band
perform in China in 2011. 

He and his spot-on
band tour extensively.

Quote of the day:
“I can write you poems, make a strong man lose his mind
I’m no pig without a wig
I hope you treat me kind
Things are breakin’ up out there
High water everywhere… "

-- High Water (for Charley Patton), 2001, Love and Theft

Blogger's note: Pictures of Dylan in this post, except for today's Dylan from,, are credited to

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