Washington: It took Bob Dylan the best part of a week to acknowledge that he had been awarded the Nobel prize in literature, and even then only in the most dismissive way: an update to a page on his website plugging a new collection of his lyrics. But now it appears even that paltry nod went too far for the mercurial music legend.
The simple words “winner of the Nobel prize in literature”, which appeared on the page for The Lyrics: 1961-2012, have now been removed. Bob Dylan, Nobel laureate, is once again plain Bob Dylan.
That single sentence was the sole public recognition Dylan had given to the prestigious award, announced last week in Stockholm. According to Sara Danius, the Nobel academy’s permanent secretary, attempts had been made to contact Dylan about the award via close associates of his, but he had kept silent.
Dylan, though clearly aware and proud of his monumental legacy – recent years have seen a succession of releases of archive material under the umbrella title of “the Bootleg Series”, in which he has deluged fans with unreleased material and opened up his working methods to scrutiny – has always stepped away from attempts to corral him into being something he does not want to be.
In 1965, at the height of his fevered elevation from singer to spokesman for a generation, he was asked at a San Francisco press conference whether he thought of himself primarily as a singer or a poet. “Oh, I think of myself more as a song and dance man, y’know?” he replied.
In July 1966, following a motorcycle crash at the peak of his fame, Dylan disappeared from public view. Though it was claimed he had broken several vertebrae, he was never treated in hospital, and he later admitted in his autobiography, Chronicles: “I had been in a motorcycle accident and I’d been hurt, but I recovered. Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race.”
Whether the latest twist in the Dylan-Nobel saga is the result of an administrative foul-up or a deliberate choice is unknown – stars’ websites are usually run with extremely limited input from their notional owners, and it’s entirely possible Dylan never knew either that his site had made reference to the prize or removed it. Though it is, of course, less likely that his manager, Jeff Rosen, would be unaware.
Some fans have suggested Dylan should refuse the title of Nobel laureate – though the Nobel committee does not acknowledge refusals, and continues to list its winners whether or not they want the prize – because the Nobel prize’s founder, Alfred Nobel, was an armaments manufacturer. “My only caveat about the award is that it cheapens Dylan to be associated at all with a prize founded on an explosives and armaments fortune,” Will Self said.
However, Dylan – in keeping with his refusal to be categorised – has often associated himself with things that are, to say the least, unexpected. He has in the past appeared in adverts for Victoria’s Secret lingerie, Cadillac and Chrysler cars and Pepsi.