A recording that fans will probably enjoy more than his latest album of American standards, Bob Dylan has turned in his lecture for the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature – complete with an audio version of the speech that Dylan himself turned in.
In the 27-minute clip (posted below), Minnesota’s most famous homeboy explores the connection between literature and songwriting. “I’m going to try to articulate that for you, and most likely it will go in a roundabout way,” he warns at the start of the speech, which includes jazzy piano accompaniment, “but I hope what I say will be worthwhile and purposeful.”
Dylan already received the Nobel medal, but he had to deliver a "lecture" in order to receive the financial award that goes with it (about $922,000 in U.S. dollars). The Swedish Academy in Helsinki, which oversees the Nobel Prizes, made Dylan’s public on Monday and seemed elated to do so.
"The speech is extraordinary and, as one might expect, eloquent. Now that the lecture has been delivered, the Dylan adventure is coming to a close," Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, wrote in a blog post.
Speaking with a dramatic flair in his unmistakably raspy voice, Dylan alternately comes off like a cross between one of the beat poets who influenced him and some of the rappers he influenced himself. He starts off with memories of seeing Buddy Holly at the Duluth Armory in 1959 and goes on to expound on his love for “Moby Dick.”
While “roundabout” is a polite way of putting the speech’s rambling quality, just like his autobiography, “Chronicles, Vol. 1,” there are moments of sheer brilliance in the speech. Like this closing passage:
“Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”