It’s taken me over 30 years to say thank you to Bob Dylan. And now the Swedish Academy has done it for me! While the Nobel Prize for Literature is more sophisticated than any note I would have penned—and it lacks my personal touch—I’m glad an official acknowledgement has been sent.
This is the first time the honor has gone to a musician and in its citation, the Swedish Academy credited Mr. Dylan with “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” There is dissension about whether a songwriter produces “literature,” but I’ll leave that argument to the pundits.
But his literary accomplishments aren’t what prompts my gratitude at this late date. Rather, I say thank you because Dylan’s chords were the source of a guitar’s strumming from a second-floor bedroom in our home in Bonn, Germany so many years ago. During the last months of our teenaged son’s life, Rick’s fingers moved from one Dylan song to another as he sat alone. He didn’t talk much about the cancer invading his body, but along with his deep faith in the God he didn’t fully understand, he found something in those chords that soothed his soul.
Toward the end of his 1978 world tour, Dylan began expressing interest in Christian topics, but I’ve no evidence it was that turn of events that captivated Rick. Was it melody? words? chords? “new poetic expressions”? Those questions I’ll contentedly leave unanswered and simply thank Dylan…and God…that music brought comfort and joy when the physical outlook was bleak. The psalmist wrote, “Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings,” but I firmly believe God was deeply praised with music from a stringed guitar.