Why Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature is long overdue

Liz Thomson in New Statesman:

DylanI was too young to appreciate the arrival of Bob Dylan. My generation screamed for the pop music pin-ups of the Seventies such as the Osmonds and David Cassidy. It wasn’t until 1976, when he released his bestselling album, Desire, that Dylan's growly tones first caught my imaginationI. His former girlfriend, the folk singer Joan Baez, was my entrée: I learned to play guitar from her records on which I first encountered such magisterial Dylan songs as “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and “With God on Our Side”, which I never did master. I knew “Blowin’ in the Wind” of course: written in 1963 and a hit for the group Peter, Paul and Mary first, it was already part of our cultural DNA, so too was the 1965 hit single “Mr Tambourine Man”. Soon I would discover songs such as “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and “Like a Rolling Stone” whose lyrics are now part of our lingua franca, paraphrased by headline writers around the world.

The man who was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota was today awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Some will carp (why not Philip Roth or Salman Rushdie, or Alice Waters?), but most will agree it is an honour long overdue —and perhaps fitting that it be awarded now, in his seventy-fifth year. That his best work is behind him matters not. His last truly great album was in 1975, Blood on the Tracks, its songs full of the pain of divorce. There have been flashes of brilliance since (Oh, Mercy, 1989; Time Out of Mind, 1997) but none compares to the genius (a word not used lightly) of the handful of albums Dylan made between his debut in 1962 and the motorcycle crash of July 1966 that allowed him to escape the drug-fuelled craziness and retreat to his lie low at his home in Woodstock.

More here.