Bob Dylan compared himself to William Shakespeare in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
Dylan did not attend the annual awards dinner and his acceptance speech for the 2016 Nobel Prize For Literature was read out by the US ambassador to Sweden, while Patti Smith performed Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.
Smith forgot a line of lyrics and had to restart a section of the song. She put her mishap down to an extreme case of nervousness.
In his acceptance speech, Dylan said he never once stopped to consider whether his lyrics were literature. And he said he was often bogged down in “mundane” matter while writing music.
Talking about what he assumed would be similar struggles for William Shakespeare, Dylan said: “When he was writing Hamlet, I’m sure he was thinking about a lot of different things. ‘Who’re the right actors for these roles? How should this be staged? Do I really want to set this in Denmark?’
“His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. ‘Is the financing in place? Are there enough good seats for my patrons? Where am I going to get a human skull?’ I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare’s mind was the question, ‘Is this literature?’
“Like Shakespeare, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavours and dealing with all aspects of life’s mundane matters. ‘Who are the best musicians for these songs? Am I recording in the right studio? Is this song in the right key?’
“Some things never change, even in 400 years. Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself ‘are my songs literature?’ So, I do thank the Swedish academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question and ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.”
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Also in his written speech, Bob Dylan thanked Nobel organisers and said it was “truly beyond words” that he had won.
He added: “If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel prize, I would have to think that I’d have about the same odds as standing on the moon.”