Just Like a Woman

Posted in honour of Bob Dylan being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

I am of course delighted that this prestigious honour has, for the first time, been bestowed on a singer/songwriter. Surely it can only be a matter of time before it goes to a blogger?

 

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17 Responses to “Just Like a Woman”

  1. Steve Warren Says:

    Until recently I didn’t have an opinion on Bob Dylan, having never listened to his music. But I was aware that Christopher Ricks considers him a genius. I also didn’t have an opinion on Dylan Thomas. So I was delighted when the BBC published one of their quizzes with a title something like ‘Do you know your Dylan from your Dylan Thomas?’. You were given ten quotes and had to guess who said it. The first quote was I thought a beautiful poetic insight, so I decided to give that to Dylan Thomas. The next quote was to me a load of pretentious twaddle, so I decided that I would give that to Bob Dylan, and that I would complete the quiz by giving all the poetry to Dylan Thomas and all the tosh to Bob Dylan. I didn’t recognize any of the quotes, and I had no particular reason for choosing this method, but thought that it might help me decide who was the better poet depending on whether I got a high or a low score.

    The result was a score of 9/10.

    • I’m sure that, with other quotes, one could devise a quiz which, after applying the same strategy, would give you just 1/10.

      Just a few weeks ago I told a fellow participant in one of my Dutch classes that Dylan would be a good choice. He thought that this was more of a gag. However, he was aware that he has been a candidate for a while now. What surprises me most are the various headlines claiming that this is a surprise.

      Deserved? Most certainly.

    • telescoper Says:

      I think Bob Dylan wrote some fine songs (including Just Like a Woman), but I agree with Leonard Cohen that you can’t judge a songwriter by the same standards you do with a poet: “A poem has a density of meaning that a song cannot support”.

      I do find Bob Dylan’s output of extremely variable quality and the same is also true of Dylan Thomas. However, in both cases I think some pieces bear the hallmarks of genius and one should judge an artist by the quality of their best work, not their worst.

      I would say however, that the other Thomas (R.S.) would have been a more worthy recipient of a Nobel Prize than Dylan, and I also think that Leonard Cohen is a far more significant poet/songwriter than Bob Dylan.
      I don’t object to the latter getting the prize, as he has been enormously influential.

      • “I do find Bob Dylan’s output of extremely variable quality and the same is also true of Dylan Thomas. However, in both cases I think some pieces bear the hallmarks of genius and one should judge an artist by the quality of their best work, not their worst.”

        Of course, many of the winners of all of the other Nobel Prizes also have a highly variable output. In all cases, the award goes for the good stuff, not the mediocre or bad.

        “I would say however, that the other Thomas (R.S.) would have been a more worthy recipient of a Nobel Prize than Dylan, and I also think that Leonard Cohen is a far more significant poet/songwriter than Bob Dylan. I don’t object to the latter getting the prize, as he has been enormously influential.”

        There are at least 4 orthogonal axes, along which one can rate a work of art: Influential? Good? Innovative? Technically difficult? In addition, there is the question of genre, which is a bit difficult to shoehorn into a one-dimensional axis. There are points everywhere in this n-dimensional space.

        At one level, of course, all that matters is quality. I certainly value quality over innovation. Whether something is technically difficult is independent of the quality, as is popularity. On the other hand, the other aspects are to some extent icing on the cake.

        Where Dylan has an edge on Cohen is, of course, influence. Dylan was literally the voice of a generation (a role he did not welcome and he actively resisted Joan Baez’s (cousin of the famous physicist John Baez, by the way) attempts to make him play it longer than he wanted to). Of course, to some extent this has something to do with being the right person in the right place at the right time, but as Pasteur said, luck favours the well prepared.

        Without Dylan, most people would probably have never heard of Cohen. (Someone actually suggested to Cohen that if he set his poems to music he might be able to live off of his art.)

      • telescoper Says:

        Yes, Bob Dylan has clearly reached a bigger audience than Leonard Cohen, but that doesn’t alter my opinion of their relative merits. It’s a matter of personal taste, though. Les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas.

        Dylan Thomas has reached a bigger audience than R.S. Thomas, but I stick to my guns on that one two!

      • “Yes, Bob Dylan has clearly reached a bigger audience than Leonard Cohen, but that doesn’t alter my opinion of their relative merits.”

        Based solely on merit, I might go with Cohen. As I mentioned here(?) recently, his first album is in my all-time top-10 list.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Neither of them can sing!

        I know very little of Leonard Cohen, having listened to about two tracks long ago and not liked either. I simply refrain from discussing him. Dylan is a genius, and I’ll rephrase Peter’s logic in the statement that anybody who has written just one great song has written one more than most artistes. And Dylan has written more than that.

        Yes, RS Thomas indeed – but he’s dead, and (for readers who might not know) you have to be alive to get the Nobel.

        How about agitating for Dylan to get the Nobel Peace Prize next year for his protest songs? Then he’d join a very select bunch of double-winners…

      • Actually some news agency—Google says Don Lemon on CNN—flubbed it and said that he had one the Peace Prize.

        Dylan has a Nobel and an Oscar. Who else does?

        Extra points for not using the internet for research.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Is it a rhetorical or catch question, ie nobody does; or does at least one other person?

        And when did Dylan get an Oscar, please?

      • Dylan got an Oscar for the song “Things have changed” which was used in the film Wonder Boys. George Bernard Shaw won the Nobel Prize for Literature and also an Oscar for adapting the Pygmalion screenplay from his own work.

        More interesting would perhaps be the combination of the Nobel and an Oscar for acting. Dylan has acted in some films, but not received an Oscar for it. (Maybe he was nominated, I don’t know.)

  2. I’m most familiar with his first 7–10 albums. He’s had his ups and downs, but what some see as a low point others see as a high point and vice versa. Many of his lyrics are really good, and can be enjoyed without the music. Not that the music is bad, but as a lyricist he’s in the top 10 of the pop/rock/folk world, while musically somewhere in the middle. In that case, similar to Leonard Cohen, perhaps.

  3. More than one newspaper has used some variation on “the times they are a-changin'” to describe Dylan’s award. This morning at the train station, a German daily newspaper did much better, with the headline (in English): How many lines must a man write down? 😕

    • Time for some spontaneous filk:

      How many lines must a man write down
      Before you can give him the Prize?
      How many years can you wait and be sure
      That the award will occur before he dies?

  4. Of course, as a modern prophet, His Bobness foresaw the naysayers and his eventual win:

    Come writers and critics, who prophesize with your pen
    And keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again
    And don’t speak too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin
    And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
    For the loser now will be later to win.

    The times, they are a-changin’.

  5. Anton Garrett Says:

  6. Anton Garrett Says:

    Dylan has not acknowledged his award. The Nobel committee is rather cheesed off about this, but it should be aware that he declined the Oscar ceremony and accepted the award only via video link. And a decade later he was a no-show at the White House to receive the US National Medal for the Arts. Apparently the mention of the Nobel has come off his website. Clearly – and predictably – he is going to ignore it rather than accept or decline it. The Nobel rules mean he will then be considered as this year’s Laureate. The times they have a-changed…

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