Fans were shocked and awed when American songwriter and singer Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature this morning. Praised by the Swedish Academy, the organization in charge of selecting Nobel Laureates, for "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition," he is no doubt an accomplished musician and cultural icon, but has Bob Dylan written any books? As it turns out, the musical legend has written more than just lyrics.
A passionate music lover from a young age, Bob Dylan has been making music since he was a teenager in Duluth, Minnesota in the 1950s. A talented lyricist, Dylan's folk songs have always been praised for their poetic nature and their ability to capture true emotion with each verse. His body of musical work, from his debut album Bob Dylan to his most recent release studio release, Fallen Angels, take on the same themes that traditional poetry and literature does, including life and death, love and violence, and politics and social unrest. Van Morrison even famously called him the greatest living poet. But aside from his songwriting, was Dylan actually a published poet or writer at all? As of 1971, the answer to that question has been yes.
Bob Dylan's first published book Tarantula was a collection of experimental prose poetry that the writer penned while living in the Greenwich Village in 1966. Originally scheduled to be published the same year Dylan wrote them, the musician's motorcycle accident delayed the official publication date several years. During that time, several black market and bootleg copies became available through an underground publisher out of San Francisco.
Like his song lyrics, Dylan's writing in Tarantula is vivid and vibrant and imaginative, capturing the turbulence of his time in a wholly inventive and unique way, but unlike his songs, it did not resonate nearly as well with readers or critics when it was published. "Things were running wild at that point," Dylan later said of Tarantula, a project he wasn't particularly fond of. "It never was my intention to write a book."
But it wouldn't be his last one.
In 2004, Simon & Schuster released the first part of Dylan's planned three-part memoir. Chronicles, Volume Oneis set in 1960s Greenwich Village and told through the eyes Dylan himself. It's Dylan's early life and career, as told by the legendary musician himself, with insight only he could offer. It paints scenes of smoky bars filled with cultural icons, rock tours alongside revolutionary musicians from Woodstock to New Orleans to LA, but it also paints a picture of what it's like to be inside Bob Dylan's head. Though there are no official release dates for the second two volumes of this project, fans can expect more books from the newly crowned Nobel Laureate.
In addition Tarantula and Chronicles: Volume One , several of Bob Dylan's most famous songs have been adapted into children's picture books. In illustrated versions of Blowin' in the Wind , Forever Young , and Man Gave Names to All the Animals , Dylan's most beloved lyrics are brought to life on the page with the help of talented artists such as Jon J. Muth, Paul Rogers, and Jim Arnosky.
So as you celebrate Dylan's huge win today by listening to your favorite album, don't forget to take a trip to the library and to find out which of his other works will become your new favorite book.