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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Dylan talks: Ivanhoe, Moby and the muse

Bob Dylan’s Nobel speech — he gave it just in time to collect the $900,000 literature prize — pays tribute to Buddy Holly, folk music and the books he read in school.

Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Tale of Two Cities, all the rest – typical grammar school reading that gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by. I took all that with me when I started composing lyrics. And the themes from those books worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or unintentionally. I wanted to write songs unlike anything anybody ever heard, and these themes were fundamental.

Dylan talked in detail about Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey. (To paraphrase Simon & Garfunkel: When he says Homer, you think he’s talking about Homer Simpson.)

Dylan concluded:

Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. . . .  I return once again to Homer, who says, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”

English teachers, go wild.

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