Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture

When Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature last year, part of the requirement for receiving the award, as well as the $900,000 that comes with it, was to deliver a speech within six months. Cutting it close, Dylan has delivered, just days shy of the June 10 deadline, leading the Guardian to quote one of his songs in their headline, “Bob Dylan delivers ‘extraordinary’ Nobel lecture – in the nick of time.”

Like many others, he wonders why he is the first songwriter to be chosen for this award, saying, “When I first received this Nobel prize for literature, I got to wondering exactly how my songs related to literature.”  He goes on to talk about the books that have influenced him, particularly Moby-Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Odyssey. Weaving those reading experiences into the speech, he says their themes are fundamental to his lyrics and that reading them helped shape his character and outlook.

He ends by saying:

“Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”

Sara Danius, the Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary wrote on the Nobel blog, “The speech is extraordinary and, as one might expect, eloquent. Now that the Lecture has been delivered, the Dylan adventure is coming to a close.”

The same post reports that in April of this year, “the members of the Academy met with Bob Dylan in Stockholm to present him with the gold medal and the diploma.”

In December, Dylan provided a thank-you speech delivered at the Nobel Banquet by the former U.S. ambassador to Sweden. See our earlier post for the story and video.

He is the first songwriter to win the award and was honored for “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

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