I am stunned. It's taking some moments for the news to sink in.
My first reaction was: I'd heard this idea floated for a long time, but I didn't take it too seriously. And I'm the kind of deep devotee of Dylan that when I write "take it too seriously," I hear a Dylan song and stop to think what it is. Isn't that a Dylan line? No, I'm thinking "You shouldn’t take it so personal...." — which is "One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)." "Seriously" only appears in one Dylan song — if I can trust the search function on his website — and that's here....
Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously"Visions of Johanna." Sorry if I'm muttering small talk at the... web... while I'm just out of bed...
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
He’s sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall
How can I explain?
Oh, it’s so hard to get on
And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past the dawn
Oh! I am simply delighted. No one I don't actually know has made such an impression on me in my life, and it was done with words... words and music... but it's the literature prize, so I'm going to stick to the words here, even though the last thing I read before I went to sleep last night was David Remnick's New Yorker article "Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker/At eighty-two, the troubadour has another album coming. Like him, it is obsessed with mortality, God-infused, and funny." And that contains some long quotes from Bob Dylan, who had a lot to say about Cohen. But it wasn't mostly about the words, but the music:
“His gift or genius is in his connection to the music of the spheres,” Dylan went on. “In the song ‘Sisters of Mercy,’ for instance, the verses are four elemental lines which change and move at predictable intervals . . . but the tune is anything but predictable. The song just comes in and states a fact. And after that anything can happen and it does, and Leonard allows it to happen. His tone is far from condescending or mocking. He is a tough-minded lover who doesn’t recognize the brush-off. Leonard’s always above it all. ‘Sisters of Mercy’ is verse after verse of four distinctive lines, in perfect meter, with no chorus, quivering with drama. The first line begins in a minor key. The second line goes from minor to major and steps up, and changes melody and variation. The third line steps up even higher than that to a different degree, and then the fourth line comes back to the beginning. This is a deceptively unusual musical theme, with or without lyrics. But it’s so subtle a listener doesn’t realize he’s been taken on a musical journey and dropped off somewhere, with or without lyrics.”But let's talk about lyrics, Bob Dylan's lyrics — a singer's lyrics have won the Nobel Prize. I don't think that's happened before. We expect poetry — to be taken so seriously — to stand disengaged from music. But wasn't early poetry sung? Dylan's words, because they were sung, became imprinted on minds. I cannot exaggerate the impression these words made on me when I began listening to the songs half a century ago. Utterly entranced by The Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," I took a chance and bought an album from the "folk" section of the record store: "Bringing It All Back Home." That was Bob's current album at the time The Byrds' single came out, and "Mr. Tambourine Man" was on that album. It was also just before the release of "Highway 61 Revisited," so a summer of bonding to "Bringing It All Back Home" ended with access to the new album. I played those 2 albums continually in 1965, when I was 14. I went back into the old albums, "Another Side Of Bob Dylan" and "The Freewheelin Bob Dylan."
Unlike many of the recordings of the day, Bob Dylan enunciated his words clearly. He was saying unusual things, but you knew what the words were — nothing garbled Louie-Louiesquely — so you got those words lodged in your head, where they would come to mind often, and swirl into your self-generated thoughts, even when you didn't know exactly what he was talking about, there was meaning, meaning to contemplate for the rest of your life.
You could read and try to memorize poems or hear a poet recite his verses — Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg — but because this was music, those words got very deeply rooted. All my life, ever since I was 14, Bob Dylan lyrics have been interlaced with my own thoughts. I can't imagine who I would be without Bob Dylan. I can't begin to unravel my mind back to the point when it didn't contain threads of Bob Dylan. I can't pull out any particular idea of mine that I got from Bob Dylan. I'm not the get-out-of-the-doorway-if-you-can't-lend-a-hand type of Bob Dylan fan, stuck on the political propaganda era, his younger, older days.
Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
“Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now....