Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Bob Dylan - A Winner

So, Bob Dylan won an honorary Pulitzer, for his contribution to American culture. It seems that people are surprised by this, as it is the first time that rock'n'roll has been awarded. It doesn't really seem surprising to me. Awarding Bob Dylan the Pulitzer now seems more like getting it done before closing time, possibly even spurred on by I'm Not There. Also, all it really shows, is that Bob Dylan is an icon of the Sixties and that the Sixties counterculture is slowly being completely incorporated into American cultural life.

Whatever the musical merits of Dylan's post-1980s output, it seems a safe bet that Dylan won for his work in the 1960s. He certainly didn't win for his album Modern Times (2006), so his recent work is less significant than his collected output. Dylan has been awared quite a bit in recent years, but the Pulitzer is probably the highest honor so far.

But in fact, what is interesting about the Dylan Pulitzer, really isn't Dylan; it's about how these awards work. It was inevitable that Dylan ended up getting a Pultzer Prize, and not surprising as commentators say. It was clearly necessary for the Pulitzer committee to reinvigorate the Pulitzers by making them more relevant to the times, otherwise they were in danger of never being able to award other musicians than jazz musicians and classic composers. Dylan's honorary award is the first step in this direction, and in that sense, the Pultizers need Dylan more than he needs a Pulitzer.

Times are a-changing, then, as the awards need the celebrities and the celebrities in fact award the prizes with their glamor, rather than the prizes awarding anything to the celebrities. Perhaps this was always the case, and with the ubiquity of award shows all over the world, it definitely seems that the awards needs the celebrities.