Just when I think that I have seen and heard it all, the Cubs win the World Series, Trump is elected to the Presidency and Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled about the Cubs and I wish Trump all the best of luck.
I do love the songs of Bob Dylan — and his lyrics have been described as the poetry of the turbulent 60’s — but, the Nobel Prize for literature? Really?
Some of you may know that I earned my spending money in college playing the guitar and singing in coffee houses. As with every other minstrel of the time, the songs of Bob Dylan constituted a significant percentage of my repertoire. For me, the lyrics were provocative and, as a sidebar, perhaps equally important, his songs were not particularly difficult to play.
Now, at age 75, he is arguably our nation’s greatest troubadour. But, do great song lyrics constitute great literature? And doesn’t some of the credit for his popularity and acclaim go to that imperfect, gritty, sometimes a tad off-key voice and the less-than-masterful musicality that so brilliantly captured and reflected the off-kilter times and subjects of his lyrics?
Just as our world then seemed “a tad off-key” to many, uncertain and, yes, scary; so, too, our world today.
With the Cubs' win, there seemed to be a slight change in our constant orbital track and now, with the win by Trump, many are hoping our planet will not be thrown out of its orbit all together.
I was driving home from my office last week and, lo and behold, the nasal, scraping of Dylan’s voice singing his classic, “The Times They Are a Changin’” began. I hadn’t heard that song in many, many years. As I listened, I was struck by the relevance today of the lyrics written all those years ago. I realized that the song was as relevant now as it had been decades ago. The answers to so many of our problems are right in front of us and, yet, because of political gamesmanship, personal biases or just plain stupidity; they go unresolved.
Perhaps it is time for us all to revisit the hope and aspirations of that generation of young people past who discovered a young “radical” singing their feelings, hopes and dreams of a new and different reality.
As I listened, there was one stanza that truly stood out for its relevance to this past election:
"Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'"
President-elect Trump, Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan. Both imperfect, yet apparently hitting the right chord for their time in history. The times are definitely changing.