Bob Dylan became the first songwriter to win the Nobel Prize in Literature last October and finally delivered the mandatory Nobel lecture.


Dylan was silent for days after his win was announced, and his award and $900,000 cash prize were in jeopardy unless he delivered a lecture by June 10. He just barely met that requirement, recording a lecture about songwriting as literature on June 4.

Dylan took about 27 minutes and 4,000 words to answer the difficult question of if song lyrics can be considered literature. He spoke about his greatest inspiration, Buddy Holly, as well as Bobby Zimmerman, before turning his attention to classic novels such as Moby DickAll Quiet on the Western Front, and The Odyssey.

“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,” Dylan concludes. “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.'”


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“The speech is extraordinary and, as one might expect, eloquent,” Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary Sara Danius wrote in a blog. “Now that the Lecture has been delivered, the Dylan adventure is coming to a close.”

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