Bob Dylan admits in Nobel Prize speech he never considered lyrics to be ‘literature’
The artist, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in October, officially accepted the honor on Saturday with a speech delivered by the US ambassador to Sweden.
A two-week silence following the announcement on October 13 led some to worry whether the prolific musician would actually acknowledge the 115-year-old honor.
In the Stockholm ceremony speech, Dylan apologized for not being able to attend and told of his disbelief at hearing he would be presented with the prize.
“If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon,” he said.
Dylan added that the idea of being mentioned in the same breath as luminaries and “giants of literature” such as Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw and Albert Camus is “truly beyond words.”
Dylan, whose career spans more than five decades, said that in the early days he initially only dreamed of his records being played in coffee houses or bars and “if I was really dreaming big… the radio.”
“As a performer I've played for 50,000 people and I've played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50.
“The fact that the Nobel Committee is so small is not lost on me.”
The ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ singer also admitted that music projects and “life’s mundane matters” had often kept him too busy to ask, “Are my songs literature?”
“So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer,” he concluded.
Earlier, Nobel Prize Committee member Professor Horace Engdahl told the banquet that it should not be a surprise for a musician to be handed the prestigious award.
“In a distant past, all poetry was sung or tunefully recited, poets were rhapsodists, bards, troubadours; ‘lyrics’ comes from ‘lyre’. But what Bob Dylan did was not to return to the Greeks or the Provençals. Instead, he dedicated himself body and soul to 20th-century American popular music,” Engdahl said.
“If people in the literary world groan, one must remind them that the gods don't write, they dance and they sing,” he added.