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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press President Barack Obama presents Bob Dylan with a Medal of Freedom during a White House ceremony in May 2012. Dylan won the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature, announced Thursday.

Friday, October 14, 2016 10:30 pm

The Nobels, they are a-changin'

Bob Dylan, once the symbol of everything the establishment was not, has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. This comes on the bootheels of his 2012 Medal of Freedom Award. What is a self-respecting counterculture rebel to do?

It’s been a long time, of course, since Dylan was on the cutting edge of a youth revolution. Way back in the 1960s, when some members of the baby boomer generation really still were babies, there was hardly a guitar in the land that hadn’t been strummed to one of Dylan’s folk songs. No one really had the answers, back then, but everyone knew the questions. There were nine of them: the lyrics to “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

When Dylan ditched his acoustic guitar for an electric Fender Stratocaster at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, the purists who loved “Masters of War” and “Don’t Think Twice” booed him off the stage.

But Dylan was always all about learning and growing. The boomers missed the point when he sang “The Times, They are a-Changin’.” It wasn’t just about their parents – it was about all of them.

Dylan turned sleepy, back-porch folk music into art with a conscience. Then he helped advance rock music from the primal sentiments of “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog” to the biting commentary of “Like a Rolling Stone.” From country and born-again gospel music, even back to ’40s show tunes, Dylan has always been ready to move on to the next cause, the next genre, the next audience. He offered old chord patterns in new ways and new rhymes full of old wisdom. As the years turned into decades and no one really took his place, people began to realize: Bob Dylan has really been giving us something special.

Once again this week, the purists may be aghast. C’mon – could this really be what great literature is about?

The answer, my friend

Is blowin’ in the wind.

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.