Tuesday, April 08, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Bob Dylan Wins Pulizer Prize

NEW YORK (AP) --Legendary troubadour Bob Dylan now has a Pulitzer to add to his Oscar and Grammys.

Dylan, the most acclaimed and influential songwriter of the past half century, who more than anyone brought rock from the streets to the lecture hall, received an honorary Pulitzer Prize on Monday, cited for his "profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power."

BB NOTE: Icing on the cake in what has been a truly outstanding weekend. Butterbeer and Chai are on the House.

We've been maintaining a blog of favorite Dylan performances called All Along the Watchtower. Some of the links are no longer viable (the loss of rankflv was a blow), but many still are working. Check it out.

This video illustrates how much influence Dylan has had on American music in the 20th century.

UPDATE: It's now reported that Bob Dylan is working on the second volume of his autobiography. The first volume, Chronicles, was creative writing at its best. It's been said that he plans a three volume autobiography, but there were times when I wondered if that was a joke and the entire autobiography would be Volume One. But no, here's word coming from Dylan's publishers that his in fact working on the second volume. Here's the story:

Bob Dylan is at work on the second volume of his autobiography, his publishers Simon & Schuster have confirmed in the wake of his Pulitzer Prize citation this week.

It is understood that Dylan is spending the seven week lay-off between the end of his last American tour and the start of his European tour in May to work on “Chronicles Volume Two”.

No publication date has yet been announced, but there is speculation that it will appear before the end of the year.

The first instalment of Dylan’s planned 3-part autobiography, “Chronicles: Volume One”, spent 19 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and was one of five finalists for the American National Book Critics Circle Award in 2004.

"Most people who write about music, they have no idea what it feels like to play it. But with the book I wrote, I thought, ‘The people who are writing reviews of this book, man, they know what the hell they’re talking about.’ It spoils you … they know more about it than me,” said Dylan in an interview with Rolling Stone, shortly after the release of Volume I.

“The reviews of this book, some of ’em almost made me cry—in a good way. I’d never felt that from a music critic ever."

There are also strong but as yet unconfirmed rumours that Dylan will tour the UK in the second half of July, following the completion of 29 dates in mainland Europe.

Dylan was awarded an honorary Pulitzer Prize on Tuesday (April 8) at the annual ceremony hosted by Colombia University in the US.

A Special Citation was awarded to Bob Dylan for "his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power."


Anonymous said...

BB--I thought maybe you would give us an appropriate tune link.

the snarkster said...

Funny, I would have thought the Wurlitzer Prize would have been more appropriate.

the snarkster

Mark Harris said...

BB...no matter what went on earlier in the weekend, no matter if this is icing or the cake itself, no matter stands between you and me in the celebration of the extraordinary gift we all have in Bob Dylan.

A toast to his Pulizer-ness. May he be forever young.

Unknown said...

Indeed. For he was so much older then, he's younger than that now.

And you know - I may try to write something later on this, though the ruling filled me with atonishment and an overwhelming sense of gratitude, if I could be perfectly frank - I was also ironically - surprisingly? - very sad as well.

Perhaps it's time to get the old "Blood on the Tracks" album out tonight and spin a few tunes. Stay tuned ...


Rolin said...

The AP waxes effusively as to how this is a new and triumphant breakthrough for rock 'n roll, to wit:

"Thanks to Bob Dylan, rock 'n' roll has finally broken through the Pulitzer wall. Dylan, the most acclaimed and influential songwriter of the past half century, who more than anyone brought rock from the streets to the lecture hall, received an honorary Pulitzer Prize on Monday. ... It was the first time Pulitzer judges, who have long favored classical music, and, more recently, jazz, awarded an art form once dismissed as barbaric, even subversive."

Funny, in all the 45 years I have been listening to Bob Dylan, I have never connected his name with "rock 'n roll", even when he crossed all the way into pop music with his "Lay Lady Lay." AFP has a better view of Bob's unique contribution, focusing on Dylan himself rather than a concocted connection with a music genre:

"NEW YORK (AFP): Legendary musician and folk icon Bob Dylan was handed a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize board Monday, following in the footsteps of fellow musicians Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. ... The board, which normally concentrates on US print journalism, does not make special citations every year but has in the past recognized Theodor Seuss Geisel, the writer of the "Dr Seuss" books, and author Ray Bradbury. Jazz musicians Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane were both mentioned posthumously, in 2006 and 2007."

Congratulations to the Poet Laureate of our age!
Br_er Rabbit

Kevin said...

I would say congratulations, but this time around I believe those would go to Bob.

Unknown said...

Baby Blue,
I was thrilled to find your comments about and links to Bob Dylan. This was something I didn't expect from anyone in the ecclesiastical world I immerse myself in every day, nor did I ever expect to see the Pulitzer Board honor Bob Dylan; it is an extraordinary happening. He is one of my heroes.
John Janeway

Unknown said...

John Janeway, thanks for posting! I too did not expect the Pulitzer, I know he's been nominated for the Nobel Prize in the past, but this came as a surprise - but a wonderful surprise.

One of the stumbling blocks for those just getting acquainted with Dylan is his voice. How many times have we heard the criticism, "but he can't sing!" The thing about Bob's voice is that he is like Picasso as a painter - he knows perfectly well how to sing (you can hear it in the earliest recordings and in Nashville Sunrise). But what he does with his voice he chooses to do. In fact, some of his late sound seems almost intentionally rough to imitate the Louie Armstrong-sounding blues singers. In recent performance in South America he has been sounding less ragged, which is sort of interesting.

It's almost like one has to start from the very beginning - the early Gaslight folk days and get acquainted with his voice that sounded so much older than his years. Then jump ahead and listen to Time Out of Mind, then go back and listen to the Manchester Concert Bootleg (now officially released as the Prince Albert Hall recording) and then forward to "When He Returns" and "Gotta Serve Somebody" in 1979 and the Slow Train Coming period - then back to the Rolling Thunder Tour in 1974.

From there you can go back to Nashville Skyline and his duet with Johnny Cash and then forward again to the stuff off of Oh, Mercy.

Anyway - what I've found is that it's better NOT to go linear with Dylan's music, but bounce around, back and forth. After a while you are so blown away about how he reinvent the music over and over over again (just see it from a different point of view, as he says in Tangles Up in Blue). But it's not just the arrangements - it's his voice.

I've tried to describe it as being like Shakespeare. When I studied Shakespeare in London my junior year in college, I was amazed at how the actors could take the same text and reinvent their characters by how the interpreted the text and how they performed that interpretation. In one performance of Hamlet, Claudius is sympathetic, in another performance he is evil - and yet the text is the same. How the text is played, what words are given emphasis, what words are swallowed or used ironically or subversively changes the meaning of the words.

Dylan does that in performance - his latest performances of his classic "The Times They Are a-Changing" is a case in point. That is one of the major "anthems" of the 60s, but now he plays it wistfully, almost sadly - ironically. His commentary is now aimed at the change, rather than the changers. And his voice lends itself to the sound, the regret, - the song is no longer a rallying cry, but a lament.

But finally, back to his voice. His voice reflects an American sound. His voice is American - and perhaps his voice is America. You can hear the sound of the train and the open road and the zeal for truth all in his voice, the wink of the joke, it's all in his voice. You don't just listen to the voice of Bob Dylan - you feel it.