Friday, October 08, 2004

Dylan and the Nobel Folk

I heard on NPR a quick snippet saying that the name of Bob Dylan is being bandied about for a Nobel Prize. Later over at the articulate but unpronounceable <[[[[[[-[[[[0{:}0]]]]-]]]]]]>, Mark Lamoureux led the way to this AP article concerning the possible nomination (Mark, I think refers to this news as an orange, although I taste it as a tangerine, oh wait, that’s tambourine, never mind) of Dylan for the Prize.

I bow to no one in my appreciation of Bob Dylan, but I also recognize the liberties he has taken with much of his songs. And although his lyrics, no doubt, wax forever poetic, some nod should be given to his folk predecessors before anyone winks only at him. We could start with those songs collected by Francis J. Child in his commanding original ten part “The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, first published between 1882 and 1898.

The volumes include the most authoritative collection of English and Scottish folk songs gathered in one place. And although Mr. Child may have been a bit prissy towards the bawdy, and maybe he spent little time in Great Britain himself (he had friends do thorough searches for him, including the Ambassador to St. James Court, James Russell Lowell, who occasionally rushed prize findings to Child by diplomatic pouch), he nevertheless did yeoman work.

So, one only need compare Dylan’s A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?) and the ballad Lord Rendal (O where ha you been, Lord Randal, my son?) to know where Dylan “borrowed” some of his inspiration. Furthermore I’m sure Wordsworth and others could add a word or two to such a democratic muse. And maybe it’s time for high literature itself to recognize its roots. So I’m awarding the first annual “grapez Prize for Literature” to the Folk (Scottish, English, and the Whole Wide World) for their incomparable wealth of words and music, as well as their fountain of inspiration and soul. Accepting the award for these unwashed millions is Mr. Bob Dylan (applause applause applause).

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