Better late than never.
Six months after being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in absentia, Bob Dylan has delivered a lecture to the Swedish Academy as part of winning the honor. Recorded over the weekend in Los Angeles, the speech finds Dylan discussing his musical influences — Leadbelly and Buddy Holly among them —along with literary works like “Moby Dick,” “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “The Odyssey.”
In the half-hour lecture, Dylan declares how 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.” (Here the speech in full below.)
Dylan describes how the epic “Odyssey” myth has found its way into songs as disparate as Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound,” Ricky Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man” and standards like “Green, Green Grass of Home” and “Home on the Range,” as well as his own catalog — illuminating the connection between the songwriter, the poet, the playwright and the storyteller.
“Songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read,” he said. “The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, ‘Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.'”
Dylan finally accepted the Nobel Prize in April, when his European tour reached Sweden after not attending the ceremony and banquet in December. And now that he has fulfilled the requirement of delivering his lecture, he’s set to receive his $900,000 prize.