Hey, Mr Tambourine Man

The New York Times calls him Mr Dylan; Obama calls him Bob; we know him as Dylan. For those of us who grew up in the sixties, he was the one who shook us from our roots and made us question everything about our lives. He has kept the faith, in his own unpredictable way, and now has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. What a turn-up for the books!

Oh to be a fly on the wall when the Academy discussed the pros and cons of giving this modern-day troubadour the award. Is Dylan following the oral tradition of the ancient Greeks, like Homer and Sappho, as Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said when making the award announcement?

I was first ‘turned on’ to his music in England in 1965. For a week in August, I lay in bed, suffering from a bout of tonsillitis, listening to the latest songs on the radio. The Byrds’ version of Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ was top of the charts, ahead of The Beatles, Lulu, The Animals and Joan Baez. Then they played Dylan’s original version. As soon as Highway 61 Revisited was released later that month, I hurried to the record shop and handed over the cash, slightly embarrassed by my boldness, as if I were crossing a line.

After two weeks of silence, Bob Dylan has accepted the award. There were murmurings that he was rude and ungrateful, but he emerged into the world again, gracious and humbled by the honour. Maybe he had to take time to adjust to being less, or more, than a rebel.

Most of us adjust to being less rebellious in later life, but it’s good to know Dylan is still shaking things up, and being acknowledged for it.

 

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