Dylan’s Nobel

They want Bob Dylan to talk.

But he listens.

That’s what was so astounding about his 2015 MusiCares speech. He’s been listening all along. To the naysayers, the phonies, those heaping false accolades. He’s been on his own journey, beholden to no one, and that’s why he’s both pushed the envelope and become revered.

But that’s not enough, because he doesn’t talk.

Prizes are for chumps. When you’re young, you want to win, you’re envious and jealous of those in the spotlight. Age and you realize it’s all a game, winners are rarely the best. As for longevity… Try naming the Grammy Albums of the Year, good luck.

Not that there’s anything wrong with winning, but it’s about the work, it’s about your life. The triumphs are all personal. You realize this if you stay in the game long enough, you’ve got to realign yourself, otherwise you’re a slave to the audience.

Bob Dylan is not a slave to his audience.

Anybody who goes to a show knows this. He reworks the material, plays piano when you expect a guitar. He’s on his own journey and you can decide to get on the bus or to stay off.

I’m off.

But I respect what he’s doing. Trying to keep himself happy, test his own limits. He’s lucky to have an audience, but he’s not worried what it thinks.

That’s an artist. In an era where there’s far too little artistry.

An artist takes in, synthesizes, filters, then throws it back to us in a way that our own lives become illuminated. That’s what broke Bob Dylan through to begin with. A Dylan who probably wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t for some simple twists of fate. Most notably, employing manager Albert Grossman, who got his songs covered by his charges Peter, Paul & Mary. Dylan wasn’t ready for prime time, with his reedy voice singing folk songs.

And then he was.

I don’t think “Like A Rolling Stone” is the best rock song ever recorded, more false accolades, but in an era of tumult it triumphed. The song wasn’t that odd on the radio in 1965. Although many believed his voice was substandard.

But that voice became iconic.

Hit singles followed, “Positively 4th Street” twisting our perceptions, weren’t you supposed to be nice in songs?

And then he disappeared and returned as a country crooner and ultimately wowed us with “Blood On The Tracks,” when we all but counted him out.

Then came Christianity and so many twists and turns… The man was living his life in public, but that wasn’t enough, it still isn’t enough, people want him to EXPLAIN IT!

But Bob never did. And famously said he did not know better. That he was no seer, that you had to look to yourself for answers. I know this now, I didn’t as a teenager. We’re all here temporarily, none of us will be remembered, if you’re living your life for show the joke is on you, and each of us has his own special gift.

That’s what Dylan sang in “Dear Landlord.”

I could curse the faux followers. The johnny-come-latelies who quote second-rate lyrics. But the best of us have followers amongst all walks of life. That’s when you know you’ve made it, when the looky-loos, the people you abhor, are on the train too.

That’s rock and roll. I was there first. Your music sucks.

But Dylan never got into the wars. Well, he castigated reporters and then receded. Why would he talk to these same nincompoops now?

And then there are the novelists pissed he got the Nobel, that they don’t get Grammys. That’s right, and you don’t get a fraction of the attention Bob Dylan does. Because you didn’t write a classic, you’re just jealous. There’s no more jealous person than a rejected artist, one whose sun has been usurped by another. It’s not a competition, be your best self, and if you’re looking for accolades…

Now we’re back at the beginning.

Nine hundred grand. A week’s touring for Dylan, he doesn’t need it for the money.

And if you can name three Nobel winners, you’re lying.

It’s just that…one of us was recognized. We had a boomer President who played saxophone on television but we still feel inadequate, we still crave plaudits, we want people to know we lived through the best era, we changed the world.

We did. Because we had artists like Bob who marched to the beat of their own drummer. He was hungry, you can’t make it without desire, but your goal is to keep the public at bay, while entrancing it.

The rabble-rousers want him to be appreciative. Want him to drop words of wisdom. They want him to be just like them.

But he’s not. He’s Bob Dylan. He’ll probably fly to Sweden to accept the award, he’ll say one word or a plethora of them. Because he also understands it’s show business, you make the most of your moment, and you do this by not giving what people want.

They want him to talk.

Which is exactly why he’s staying silent. The absence of words is deafening. It’s a bigger statement than any sentence.

As Bob put it so eloquently in “I And I”…

I got nothin’ to say, ‘specially about whatever was

You see he made shoes for everyone, even you, and you’re angry he’s still going barefoot.

Then again, no man sees his face and lives.

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