Robert Zimmerman, or Bob Dylan, is certainly in the American pantheon of greatness, having won the World’s Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. Dylan immediately began his search for the connection between ”my songs related to literature.” After spending a year in crafting a 2017 Nobel Prize speech he created initially a picture of a person who read the schoolroom’s classic books of literature.
Meandering, he talks of many tunesmiths he emulated in becoming a folk artist singing of the vibrancy and truthfulness to life, stressing Buddy Holly. He returns to great literature by finding themes for his work, such as choosing three books for attention in his speech. They are Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” and Homer’s “The Odyssey.”
“High drama and dramatic” dialogue finds Melville’s writing of the crew members description of the White Whale. At the same time he mixes the myths of Western Civilization with current themes to portray Hercules as a whaler, while Captain Ahab is riding between the rails to his purpose of destroying the whale. Remarque’s World War I rat-filled trenches and diseases cause life to break down around you. Dylan finds that the soldiers were betrayed by their parents, their schoolmasters, their ministers, and even their own government. Homer’s hero, Odysseus, spent 20 years in a long journey home wandering among mythic traps and pitfalls. Dylan mentions that the themes of “The Odyssey” have “worked its way into the ballads of a lot of songwriters: ‘Homeward Bound,’ ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’ and ‘Home on the Range,’ and my songs as well.”
Here the craftsman talks of sources of his productivity and popularity to the world adding to those who write in appreciation of the nature of his popularity and his immense productivity at today’s age 78.
Leonard R. Friedman, MD, Middleton