How a Rock Star’s Nomination for the Nobel Prize Changes the Way We Should Think About Literarture

A rock star, a physicist, a chemist, a doctor, and a South American President win the highest international award there is — but only one didn’t accept in person.
Thanks to the Nobel Prize committee’s nomination of rock and folk legend Bob Dylan as this year’s Nobel Prize winner in literature, the rock n’ roll lifestyle lives on even when prestigious awards are involved.

For Dylan fans — and hopefully fans of music in general — this is tremendous news.

His prolific career and incredible lyricism make him the perfect candidate for this award. He is the first singer-songwriter to earn the Nobel Prize, elevating him beyond the legendary status many already attributed to his name.

Sadly, there are people who do not think that Bob Dylan should have received this award.

Claims have been made that his work is not as influential as other literary giants who have been awarded in the past. However, I believe that his music encompasses a wide range of issues and themes, making it as relevant as any piece of literature.

When his career started in the 1960s, Dylan’s songs attempted to make sense of the changes the country was experiencing at the time. His songs chronicle the civil rights movement and the social unrest of the period as well as his personal issues with love, loneliness, and loss. His work effortlessly translates an air of cool and determined desperation, hope, and down-on-your-luck positivity into a consumable combination of his soulful vocals and warm music. His lyrics are not just acts of social injustice set to semi-catchy tunes like contemporary artists; rather, they are beautiful and complex tales of everyday life, things people could imagine happening down their street or through the walls of their New York apartments.

Dylan has inspired (and continues to inspire) generations of musicians with his incredible lyrical talents, and I can think of no better recipient for the first Nobel Prize given to a songwriter. Demeaning his work by simply calling him a rock star is a severe understatement of his abilities as a singer-songwriter — although, he is most definitely a rock star.
I do not mean to suggest that Dylan is the only musician who is able to do all these things in music He is one of many who do it well, and he is the first to do it well enough to receive an internationally accepted accolade for his work in the genre.

My hope for future Nobel Prizes is that musicians of this caliber are recognized more than they currently are. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is all fine and good, but I dream of Joe Strummer receiving a posthumous Nobel Prize and Steve Perry being awarded for making music that is just too damn fun.

The wide number of eligible candidates for the award is staggering when musicians are taken into consideration. Dylan’s nomination will hopefully usher in a more open casting system, legitimizing their professions as artists rather than idle performers. Bob and his peers make it look easy, but crafting a well-metered, impactful, and poetic song is no joke.
One day, the image of a rock star chilling with a bunch of scientific geniuses in Sweden will cease to be a daydream because hopefully they’ll actually go next time.

Isaac Espinosa is a second-year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at imespino@uci.edu.