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David Porter » Articles at Suite 101 » Bob Dylan’s Achievement Awards Are Still One Short

Bob Dylan’s Achievement Awards Are Still One Short

Lauded, awarded praised and endlessly debated, Bob Dylan reaches 70 in May 2011. Isn’t it about time he won the greatest honour of all: the Nobel Prize?

On May 24th 2011, the most analysed poet of the 20th century, Bob Dylan, celebrates his 70th birthday. At an age when many are in retirement, Dylan shows no signs of slowing. His Never Ending Tour, a popular name for his touring schedule, has played around 100 gigs a year since June 1988. It continues.

While Dylan and his backing band evolve as the tour progresses, the opening announcement remains unchanged. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the poet laureate of rock and roll. The voice of the promise of the Sixties counter-culture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock….’

He is all that and more; but ‘the poet laureate’? The honour ‘laureate’ comes from Ancient Greek for ‘crowned with laurels’; the best. While Dylan has been showered with awards, Nobel’s Prize for Literature has not yet been offered.

Alfred Nobel’s will created an award for: ‘the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction …’ Surely Dylan qualifies?

Many Accolades

Moving backwards through the decades, Ace Showbiz lists his most glittering acknowledgments by public and music/film industries, through nominations and prizes. Things Have Changed, for example, won an Academy Awards Oscar for Best Music, Original Song and a Golden Globe in 2001 for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture, a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Male Vocalist and for Best Motion Picture Song (Wonder Boys, movie 2000).

His 1973 Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid movie soundtrack was nominated for a BAFTA in 1974. Brit Awards nominations came in 2007 for Best International Male Solo Artist and Best International Album (Modern Times). Slow Train Coming won a Dove Award (1980) with Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett; while Grammy nominations arrived in 2010 (Best Americana Album for Together Through Life, Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for Beyond Here Lies Nothin’).

Grammy Awards came in 2007 for Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album (Modern Times), Best Rock Vocal Solo Performance (Someday Baby, which also got Best Rock Song nomination). 2004 saw him share a Grammy nomination with Mavis Staples for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (Gonna Change My Way of Thing) and win one on his own for Down in the Flood (Best Rock Vocal).

2002 gave him a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album and nominations for Best Rock Male Vocal (Honest With Me) and Album of the Year (Love and Theft).

All Kinds of Music

1997’s To Make You Feel My Love was Grammy nominated in 1999 as Best Country Song. Grammies came in 1998 for Cold Iron Bound (Best Rock Vocal), Time Out of Mind (Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Folk Album) and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, nominated in 1996 as Best Rock Vocal.

Dignity was Grammy nominated in 1996 (Best Rock Song); World Gone Wrong won Best Traditional Folk Album in 1995, with another nomination in ’94 for Good As I Been To You (Best Contemporary Folk Album). 1967’s All Along The Watchtower waited till 1994 before a Grammy nomination as Best Male Rock Vocal, when 1964’s My Back Pages also got praise nominated as Best Rock Vocal by Duo or Group (shared with Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, George Harrison and Eric Clapton).

Grammy gave him the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992; in 1990 he shared one for Best Rock Vocal By Group with The Traveling Wilburys. Nominations in 1987 for Biograph as Best Historical Album recognized tranches of his cannon and nominations for Best Inspirational Performance (Shot of Love, 1982 and 1981 Saved) marked achievement high points.

Other music from his overtly Christian period (Gotta Serve Somebody, 1980) won a Grammy; Concert for Bangladesh was 1973 Album of the Year shared with George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Ravi Shankar. Nashville Skyline Rag (Best Country Instrumental, 1970); John Wesley Harding (Best Folk Performance, 1969); The Times They Are A’Changin’ (Best Folk Recording, 1965); and Bob Dylan (Best Folk Recording, 1963), were lauded.

Hosts of Prizes

It’s both number and scale of awards that impresses. In 1964 he was Grammy nominated for Best Documentary, Spoken Word or Drama Recording for We Shall Overcome (The March on Washington, August 28, 1963), shared with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Marian Anderson, Rabbi Joachim Prinz.

Awards from Las Vegas Film Critics Society, Mannheim-Heidelberg International Filmfestival, Polar Music, Prince of Asturias Awards, Satellite Awards fill shelves of the man who calls himself, ‘only a song and dance man’. In 1982 he was inducted into the US Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and 1988 into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Described by William Langley in the UK’s Daily Telegraph (8 April 2011) as the man ‘who changed popular culture more than anyone alive’, he sells out stadiums ‘almost fifty years after his most creative period’. Langley acknowledges that detractors say he pulled off ‘one of the greatest confidence tricks in entertainment history: wreathing himself in a persona of precocity, intelligence and activism’, then disclaiming it to ‘create an aura of mystery’.

Most commentators, including Langley, maintain that view doesn’t square with the influence of his three pivotal albums, Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Bringing It All Back Home (1965) and Blonde on Blonde (1966), ‘widely held to be the bedrock of everything rock music became’.

With such a catalogue of songs, lyrics, poetry, music isn’t it time to award him the Literature Nobel honour? In another fifty years, won’t people still be humming/singing his ballads, traditional/contemporary folk, country and rock songs? Won’t many be quoting, arguing over and being influenced by his haunting lyrics? Won’t his songs still be used in films?

The best birthday present would be an invitation to Scandanavia for the Nobel!

First published on Suite 101, 12 May 2011. (and still not come to pass!)

Image: Bob Dylan in 2010 – Alberto Cabello

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