Bob Dylan - Nobel Prize Winner

Musician Bob Dylan just received the Nobel Prize in Literature, joining other illustrious laureates as Toni Morrison (the last American writer to win this award), Doris Lessing, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Steinbeck, and William Faulkner, "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." 

It is the first time the award has been given to a musician for song lyrics. This puts Dylan in a unique place but he has occupied a unique place in American popular culture for his whole career.

Dylan's career spans over fifty years, at least thirty seven albums, and countless bootlegs and live recordings. That is a lot of material to cover. To make matters easier, here are some recommendations that you can request and check out at your nearest SCCLD library that give a sense of Dylan's greatness both as a writer and a performer.

We'll start with the film Don't Look Back which helped establish Dylan's reputation and create some of the most enduring images of him.

Don't Look Back

Famed documentary director D. A. Pennebaker caught Dylan in private moments with friends as well as public performances while Dylan was in England for his 1965 tour. The film reveals Dylan's charisma as well as his ability to be confrontational and deliberately opaque.  This documentary has been selected by the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" as well as ranked by critics on the Sight and Sound Poll as the ninth greatest documentary of all time.  


The Lyrics 1962-2001

Seeing Dylan's lyrics printed on the page allows them to stand alone as poetry. While Dylan's performances have a spontaneous almost free form quality, his lyrics show a surprising rigor and formality when seen separately from his music. This book covers almost every word he wrote between 1962 and 2001.

The Essential Bob Dylan

An overview of the major part of Bob Dylan's career includes most of his hits such as "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are A-Changin" as well some great later recordings that aren't always as recognized.

Time Out of Mind

Dylan's late-career 1997 Grammy Winning Album of the Year triumph.  The songs here are uniformly powerful, dark and gritty, and producer Daniel Lanois does a masterful job creating the right sonic backdrop for Dylan's work. This is a riveting demonstration of the powerful performer that Dylan had evolved into by this point.

Chronicles Volume One

In Dylan's own words, this memoir tells the fascinating story of his life from his arrival in New York through the late 1980s. New York in the 1960s was going through a cultural upheaval and Dylan was in the midst of it. Seeing the time through his poetic and funny perspective is a great reading experience. Dylan writes elegantly but with a truthful streetwise power.

There is more to explore on Bob Dylan, both his own and the art he has inspired. Check out these recommendations from the Movies and Music Topic Team.

Bob Dylan - Nobel Prize Winner

Image of Bob Dylan from New York

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