«How many roads must a man walk down / Before you can call him a man?». These were Bob Dylan’s iconic words in 1963. And how many roads must the Swedish Academy walk down, before it finds a way to contact the songwriter of Duluth?
On October 13th 2016 the Svenska Akademien has awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan. The motivation: having created new poetic expressions that enriched the great tradition of American music. From that moment, except for the Never Ending Tour that is dragging him all around the world, his silence has been deafening. Not a single word, not a hint to one of the most eligible prizes in the world.
Until a few days ago.
After a week of apparent indifference, a label saying “winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature” has appeared on one of his official websites.
As usual, the award ceremony will be held in Stockholm on November, at the presence of the Swedish king Carl XVI Gustaf. However, Bob hasn’t confirmed his presence to the event yet.
Sara Danius, Academy Permanent Secretary, has declared that they have stopped trying to contact the artist. They’ve completely stopped calling and writing e-mail to his closer collaborators. And they’re sure that it will be a great party anyway, even if the songwriter doesn’t participate.
Well, there’s no doubt it will be a great party. Though, the question arises about the reasons behind the non-reaction of one of the most famous musician of the American history. Someone who has accepted many prizes in the past.
Bob Dylan and his prizes
In 1990, Bob Dylan was appointed Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the French minister Jack Lang. In 1991 he won the Grammy Award for his career; in 2000 he also won the Polar Music Prize. The Pulitzer prize arrives in 2008 – and he’s the first singer and musician who has ever won it; then it’s time for the National Medal of Arts in 2009. After that, in 2012 he won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Finally, in 2016, the Nobel Prize for Literature comes.
Despite his silence and the possibility that he won’t show at the award ceremony, facts do not change: he owns the title, for having enriched “popular” rock music with lyrics of great depth, exploring poetical and civil field.
Protests and silence
Maybe, Bob Dylan’s silence is not so incredible. In the 1960s, the minstrel of Duluth has been one of the first exponent of the “Movement”, the American protest movement deployed against the cliche of the bourgeois class. Social, political and philosophic issues at the service of the USA counterculture. Always accompanied by the sound of his voice, his guitar, his mouth-harp and the piano.
To explain his silence, his second album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” (1962-1963) is a reference that should be considered. Songs like “Blowin’ in the wind”, “Masters of war” or “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” haven’t simply made him the artist he’s today. They were a symbol of his civil commitment concerning red-hot issues like the nuclear question, wars, bad politics and racism.
Bob Dylan stopped being an activist in 1963, but he has never stopped protesting for the things he believes in. His songs are his tools for protest thanks to the power of music.
And maybe his silence means he still hasn’t accepted many memories, like the ones of the never won struggle of the dear old 1960s.