Dear Mr. Dylan – You changed my life. I am disappointed today. There, I said it.
The Nobel Prize Committee showed vision and courage when they awarded you the Nobel Prize for Literature this year. This is the first time the award was given to a lyricist. I believe they made a powerful and important statement. A lyricist is a writer and lyrics have equally powerful messages compared to written prose or verse. This was sensibly recognized with the prize.
Beyond this parity of message, we’ve discovered something else in the 20th and 21st centuries. With amplifiers, arenas and recordings, radio, television, video and the internet, the message of performed lyrics with music can reach literally billions of people around the entire planet. The message of popular music has sparked many important world movements. Many, many.
So, the Nobel Prize Committee awarded you the Nobel Prize for Literature. But much more important, they recognized the language, the modes and the venues of popular music and their power to influence. This transcends any single artist, even the most accomplished, articulate, creative and powerful Bob Dylan.
At first I accepted not acknowledging the award. It was widely interpreted as an act of humility. It’s okay to be humble. Or reclusive, or even a bit embarrassed. To be reluctant to step forward, accept the accolades and the limelight. It’s okay.
But then I realized that something important was lost. We’ve heard that some influencers on the Committee now regret handing the award to you. Giving it to a popular musician. Giving it to an American. This is regrettable because it dwarfs the more important move they made. They gave the award to a lyricist. They acknowledged this immensely powerful new medium. They opened the door to this and other media forms that may follow. They allowed that all new media could possibly receive the same respect and attention afforded the written word. All so good.
So, with respect, I would like you to announce a new position with respect to your Nobel Prize. Feel free to retain humility. Feel free to remain reclusive. But, also please acknowledge the courage of the Nobel Prize Committee. Please respect and help celebrate the new possibility that lyricists, and other artists might receive their Nobel Prizes down the road. That the Nobel Prize might come to allow and recognize all emerging media and forms of expression.
Last night I was driving down the M4 motorway from London to Bristol in the UK. I was listening to Bruce Springsteen on BBC Radio 4, on Desert Island Discs. In my opinion, Springsteen should be considered someday for the Literature Prize. And Joni Mitchell, and Dave Matthews. Billie Joe Armstrong? Neil Young? Kurt Cobain? Just my opinion.
I fear your lack of response will slam the door on consideration for those artists, many others and many future others. With recognition comes responsibility. Please help keep the door open by publicly endorsing the concept of awarding the Nobel Prize for literature to a popular lyricist. Our experiences will all be richer as a result.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. You’ve enriched my life and so many others. Best wishes to you.
Sincerely, Peter Winer, London, UK, 21 December 2016.
P.S. As far as I can tell, you have not been interviewed for Desert Island Discs. That said, almost 100 castaways included at least one of your tunes in their selections. Including, Norman Schwarzkopf, Stephen King, David Cameron, Martin Sheen and Bruce Springsteen. Given a chance, I would include Tangled Up In Blue in mine.