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Why Bob Dylan Matters, Richard Thomas


The author, who is a professor of the classics at Harvard University is obsessed with Dylan. I think you gotta be if you’re writing a thesis on why Dylan’s poetry deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature. I think it was just a stamp of approval for his mind that he wasn’t crazy all these years with his obsession and teaching a class on Dylan’s work at Harvard. He traces the evolution of Dylan’s songs from their early folk, gospel, and blues roots, and the transition of his art from acoustic to electric in the studio and performances. He explores the themes of Dylan’s songs and how they connect over time with his other albums through the years. His art emerged in themes – music and social justice, war and human response to war, love and death, faith and religion, realities of mortality, etc. Dylan would change lyrics in live performances over time, his poetry of borrowing and stealing for lyrics, and melodies. The poet Catullus – his love, loss, capture the human condition… Dylan brings back the poetry of Homer, Virgil, Ovid, and Timrod. His performances are as dramatic trilogies in his shaping. Dylan’s work has long been informed by the world’s poets in ancient Greece and Rome, why those classics matter to him and should matter to all of us interested in the humanities… to justify their existence. The book ends with Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize, his response, and his lecture. Those arts seem more vital than ever in terms of what they can teach us about how to have meaningful lives. Dylan’s art can therefore be put to work in serving and preserving the humanities.

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