Beaton: Bob Dylan to the establishment: “It ain’t me babe”
The Aspen Beat
The establishment got spanked. Here’s the story:
Some old geezers in Scandinavia are very proud of some prizes they give. They call them “Nobel Prizes.”
The prize comes in several flavors. The “Peace Prize,” for example, is awarded by Norwegian politicians. They give it to other politicians who they like.
One year they gave it to a guy who said he invented the internet, then lost an election for United States president, then refused to accept the election results, then threw the country into chaos for a month, then lost in the courts and then got rich inventing global warming.
Another year they gave it to an American president who succeeded in getting elected and nothing else (I suppose they had to give him one after giving one to the earlier guy for failing to get elected) and who later succeeded in escalating but not winning a war in Afghanistan, which is now the longest-running war in American history.
One year they gave their Peace Prize to a Palestinian terrorist.
There’s also a Nobel Prize for “literature” for the person they deem the planet’s best writer. This one is given by an obscure club of 18 lousy writers in Sweden. They call themselves the Swedish Academy. Everyone else calls them “Who?”
Their motto sounds like an advertisement for a suburban dinner theater: “Talent and Taste.”
This year, they gave their Nobel Prize for literature to Bob Dylan. Or at least they tried. Seems Bob wouldn’t return their phone calls.
Bob has a history of bucking the establishment. He was born Robert Zimmerman in a small, Minnesota town. He learned some acoustic guitar and taught himself the harmonica. He changed his name, went to Greenwich Village and made a name for himself as a folk singer. Hippies liked him.
Then he decided to plug the guitar in. The hippies went berserk, even without their drugs. Overnight, their cheers turned to boos just because Bob had tried something new.
Hippies were like that. They always wanted you to be new and different, but only if you did it their old-and-same way.
Bob survived being ostracized for being different by the conformist hippies. On the sheer strength of his creative talent (not so much his singing voice), he became truly great.
The hippies eventually grew up, or at least older, and became liberals watching public television fundraisers showing Peter, Paul and Mary singing saccharine versions of Bob’s songs about ’60s protests that they never actually participated in.
And then Bob threw another switch. In middle age, he became a Christian.
Like the hippies earlier, the liberals went berserk. Christianity is for hicks, they believed, not for Bob and other sophisticates like themselves.
Later still, Bob defended Israel’s right to defend itself. The liberals, now rebranded as politically correct “progressives,” didn’t like that, either. Bullies never like people who believe in defense.
Nobel Prize announcements are watched almost as closely as “American Idol,” and the Swedes know it. So this year they grandiloquently proclaimed that Bob had “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
Huh? What are “poetic expressions”? Is that a wooly phrase for “poetry”?
I told you they were lousy writers.
That evening, Bob gave one of the hundreds of concerts that he still gives at age 75. He made no mention of his big prize. And for a month he wouldn’t return the Swedes’ phone calls.
The Swedes got mad— for Swedes, anyway. One said Bob’s refusal to acknowledge this prize that he never asked for was “an unprecedented situation” and called him “impolite and arrogant.”
I already told you twice that they’re lousy writers. But they do have a talent and taste for unintentional irony. If they want to avoid “unprecedented situations,” then maybe they should give their little prize for creativity to someone less creative.
As for “arrogance,” it’s this self-appointed committee of hacks, not Bob, who presume to judge the world’s best writing. And then when Bob refuses to acknowledge their judgment, they presume to whine, “Just who does he think he is?”
Here’s who. He’s an independent thinker who is unwilling to allow himself to be used by establishmentarian prigs seeking to award themselves the authority to decide what is good.
Eventually, Bob returned their calls. And he says he’ll show up for the big ceremony, “if it’s at all possible.”
Bob being Bob, it sounds like he’ll have a concert to give that night instead. Even bad Swedish writers would recognize the symbolism.
In other symbolic news about the establishment, the dishonest, self-dealing insider whom the establishment hand picked to be the next president lost to a businessman who builds things.
The times, it seems, they are a-changin’.
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