The man is alive and thriving and chugging like a train at 75, but he peaked 50, 51 years ago. Glorified in song, fable, movies, CDs and iTunes for decades. There isn’t a corner in the world where Dylan’s prose isn’t quoted, where his reach and eloquence as a poet-troubadour isn’t bowed down to, and Team Nobel waits a half-century to say “hmmm, yeah, okay…let’s honor the most influential and magnetic poet of the 20th Century”?
From today’s N.Y. Times story: “[Dylan] is the first American to win since the novelist Toni Morrison, in 1993. The announcement, in Stockholm, came as something of a surprise. Although Mr. Dylan, 75, has been mentioned often as having an outside shot at the prize, his work does not fit into the literary canons of novels, poetry and short stories that the prize has traditionally recognized.
“’Mr. Dylan’s work remains utterly lacking in conventionality, moral sleight of hand, pop pabulum or sops to his audience,’ critic Bill Wyman wrote in a 2013 Op-Ed essay in the N.Y. Times arguing for Mr. Dylan to get the award. ‘His lyricism is exquisite; his concerns and subjects are demonstrably timeless; and few poets of any era have seen their work bear more influence.’
HE riff #1: “A new manifestation of the ‘Surreal or Misheard Song Lyrics‘ riff I bring out from time to time. Last night I was listening to Bob Dylan‘s She Belongs To Me and decided that ‘the law can’t touch her at all’ isn’t as good and certainly not as primal as ‘Ma can’t touch her at all.’
“You can define ‘Ma’ as the proverbial family authority figure or some kind of tough, cigar-chomping butch boss in the tradition of Ma Barker or Maureen Dowd‘s “Ma Clinton.” I only know that ‘Ma’ rules while ‘the law’ litigates. If representatives of ‘the law’ can’t think of some way to mess with her mind and slow her down then so what? But if she stands up to Ma while wearing her sparkling Egyptian ring, that’s something else.”
“Therefore: ‘She never stumbles / She’s got no place to fall / She never stumbles / She’s got no place to fall / She’s nobody’s child / Ma can’t touch her at all.'”
HE riff #2: Seamus McGarvey/Bob Dylan gas station story.
HE riff #3: “The last time I saw Bob Dylan perform was at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago in April of 2005, and he was into a kind of scat-singing back then and putting aside guitar for the keyboard. I loved the way fiddler Elana Fremerman (of Hot Club of Cowtown) kept making goo-goo eyes at Dylan, and loving the crisp, tight-sounding band.
“But I also remember feeling a little sad that Dylan didn’t sound like his ’60s records. He had long since stopped singing straight and plain and just, you know, hitting notes and massaging the phrasing like he did in D.A. Pennebaker‘s Don’t Look Back (now on Criterion Bluray). Because he can’t repeat himself, has to change, has to shift gears to stay fresh and alive. I get it but I still miss it.”