Hearing the announcement a few days ago put a smile on my face for the rest of the week. When I was young it was common to hear that rock music was a trivial fad, and those of us who thought there was lasting worth were on the defensive about the sound and words we loved. Maybe I have continued to be haunted by this defensiveness because I finally feel vindicated by Dylan's official recognition in being awarded the Nobel.
Dylan's lyrics had an effect upon my life. I never questioned the segregationist environment of my youth until the civil rights revolution of the 1960's crashed into my suburban life, and Dylan's music was part of that soundtrack. "How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see" not only called attention to racial injustice but also redefined manhood. There must have been millions of other teenage boys who, like me, suddenly had an alternate measurement of what it was to be a man, a measurement more noble than physical toughness or sexual prowess.
Dylan's words also inspired and expanded our imaginations. I've been listening to this song for over half a century and the imagery never fails to grab me:
"Take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time
Far past the frozen leaves
The haunted frightened trees
Out to the windy bench
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow..."
For those of us for whom Bob Dylan has been our Mr. Tambourine Man for most of our lives, we somehow feel that the Nobel Prize award was for us too.