Culture & Criticism Since 2003
“Well, Frankie Lee, he sat right down
And put his fingers to his chin
But with the cold eyes of Judas on him
His head began to spin
Would ya please not stare at me like that, he said
It’s just my foolish pride
But sometimes a man must be alone
And this is no place to hide”
– Bob Dylan, “The Ballad Of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest,” 1967.
“We see only the surface of things. We can interpret what lies below any way we see fit. Crewmen walk around on deck listening for mermaids, and sharks and vultures follow the ship. Reading skulls and faces like you read a book. Here’s a face. I’ll put it in front of you. Read it if you can.”
“So what does it all mean…If a song moves you, that’s all that’s important. I don’t have to know what a song means. I’ve written all kinds of things into my songs. And I’m not going to worry about it – what it all means. When Melville put all his old testament, biblical references, scientific theories, Protestant doctrines, and all that knowledge of the sea and sailing ships and whales into one story, I don’t think he would have worried about it either – what it all means.”
– Bob Dylan in his lecture accepting the Nobel Prize, 2017.
Bob Dylan is the first songwriter/musician to ever be awarded a Nobel in Literature, and this handsomely black-bound edition ($16.99 list) memorializes his perspective on why he won it, reprinting the lecture he delivered upon accepting the Prize. What’s remarkable about Dylan’s lecture is how open he is with his heart as he excavates his most intimate memories. It’s rare for a poet to be able to analyze his own work with this kind of clarity and depth – the level of writing here as compelling as anything we saw on his hallmark albums. For those fans still wondering what the songs mean and how he came to create them, The Nobel Lecture holds a palpable key. But ultimately, the point is to accept that their meaning will always remain secondary to the fact that they were written.