After weeks of seeming to snub his Nobel Prize, Bob Dylan won many over at Saturday night’s Nobel Banquet, without even attending. His letter of thanks, read by Azita Raji, the American ambassador to Sweden, was applauded by the NYT as “a warm, humble statement.” In it, he explains that his songs are,
“the vital center of almost everything I do … Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, ‘Are my songs literature?’ … So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.”
That answer was driven home by one of the Nobel Committee members who said at the event that Dylan is,
“a singer worthy of a place beside the Greek bards, beside Ovid, beside the Romantic visionaries, beside the kings and queens of the blues, beside the forgotten masters of brilliant standards. If people in the literary world groan one must remind them that the gods don’t write, they dance and they sing.”
Patti Smith, who, as The Rolling Stone reports, was invited to perform before the announcement of Dylan’s Nobel, chose to sing his 1962 protest song, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” She got tangled in the long and complicated lyrics, halting at one point to say “I’m sorry, I’m so nervous,” and received a round of applause. She recovered so well that she brought many in the audience to tears.