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Listen as Bob Dylan Delivers Lecture for Nobel Prize in Literature

Dylan Cites Lead Belly, Buddy Holly, Moby Dick as Major Influences in Nobel Prize Lecture

June 6, 2017

While Bob Dylan didn’t attend the 2016 Nobel Prize ceremony, he did eventually accept the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature at a private ceremony when his tour brought him to Stockholm, Sweden in April 2017. But in order to receive the full $900,000 prize, winners are required to deliver a lecture on their respective fields—a prerequisite met by Dylan this weekend. The lecture (below) was recorded on June 4th in Los Angeles.

As the first songwriter to receive the prize, Dylan used his lecture as an opportunity to explain the connection between his music and literature. Citing Lead Belly and Buddy Holly as two of his greatest musical influences, he then went on to summarize three books that influenced his music, whether knowingly or not: Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, and Homer's The Odyssey.

Dylan says reading the classics in grammar school—the above three, in particular—gave him an understanding of human nature and a different perspective on life. And while the themes of these books became intertwined in the lyrics of his songs, he urges listeners not to get too hung up on the meaning of lyrics. Just as Shakespeare’s words were meant to be acted and literature’s words are meant to be read, his, and all musician’s lyrics, are meant to be heard.