Why Bob Dylan Won The Nobel Prize

You think you’ll stick with folk rock or are you going on into more writing? I don’t play folk Rock What would you call your music? I’d call it There must be some way out of here Said the Joker to the thief There’s too much confusion I can’t get no relief So there are some novels some trilogies in fact with less actual content than Bob Dylan’s ”All along the watchtower” it’s really astonishing what Dylan achieves in 12 lines 130 words and two and a half minutes. I don’t think I can explain the song definitively I don’t think anyone could do that with Dylan But there’s a lot here to explore. And the first thing to note is exactly when and where all along the watchtower fits in Dylan’s career, the song is the fourth on his 1967 album, John Wesley Harding coming after two of his most famous and most Celebrated records Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde Dylan had already gone electric already repudiated much of the political significance he had in his first years and alienated a lot of his folk music following in the process His lyrics in those albums were lyrics of a man possessed shot through with some magic spirit singing gorgeously beautiful Epics in a stream of illusions and vignettes for this reason John Wesley harding can only come as a shock It’s totally spare instrumentation mostly guitar bass and drums under vocals and Harmonica and largely two to three-minute songs strike a Bold contrast not only to his previous albums, but to the maximalist psychedelic feeling of 1967 the same year that the Beatles released sergeant Pepper’s lonely Hearts club band which by the way Dylan called quote very indulgent Despite this Dylan’s eighth album was universally praised and rightly, so it’s among the tightest work he’s ever released both conceptually than the themes found in the 12 song cycle and Lyrically, there’s no line that you can stick your finger through. He said in 1968. There’s no hole in any of the stanzas there’s no blank filler each line has something in all along the watchtower there are exactly twelve lines a parable framed as a Conversation between two archetypes a joker and a thief the joker speaks first looking for a way [out] of here though We don’t quite know where here is Then complaining that businessmen drink his wine plowman dig his earth while neither of them know what those things are worth the thief Responds saying that there’s no reason to get excited those people may feel that life is a joke But we know better because we’ve been through that already the story then pulls back to a watchtower where there is some kind of commotion as Watchmen notice two Riders approaching in the cold distance The final quatrain is a little bit jarring. It’s almost as if it’s misplaced in time It’s been suggested in fact that the last lines are actually Chronologically the first in the story and by doing this dylan gives the song a kind of endless Circular feel the story always rapping around to the start again Emphasizing just how futile the Joker’s first comment is there must be some way out of here of course It’s unclear whether the two riders spotted from the watchtower are the Joker and the thief or whether the joker and the thief spot them or some other configuration And for that matter it’s worth questioning who exactly these two figures are some think that the Joker is Dylan while the thief is Elvis who stole African-American music for white pop culture. Others see the two figures as two sides of Dylan’s own personality before and after the horrible motorcycle accident that in many ways Generated this new style of music still others see the joker as jesus in conversation with one of the thieves that was crucified Alongside him Making biblical connections, isn’t that far-fetched? There are some 70 biblical allusions in John Wesley harding all told and those close to Dylan remember him repeatedly Consulting a large version of the King James Bible at his home in Woodstock Several people have noted the similarities between this song and a passage from the book of ISaiah Chapter 21 to be exact It’s a passage that prophesies the fall of babylon and the jews return from exile to Jerusalem Dylan spent much of his early career fighting off the label of prophet It’s a responsibility he felt was thrust on him ilegitimately, but here He seems to accept the role laying down an apprehensive Apocalyptic scenario as if to say ”You want a prophecy? Okay? I’ll give you a prophecy”, but it comes at a price the price is Mistery and Entrapment a prophecy the meaning of which is forever out of reach He casts himself in the role of Joker, thief, narrator, Jesus and prophet all simultaneously Removing any anchoring personal presence like you might find in his previous work by the end the audience is left in as much Fearful anticipation of what’s to come as the reader of yates’s second coming as a great beast? impossible to fathom slouches toward Bethlehem to be born Where this gets really compelling for me though is in the actual music a lot of people prefer Jimi Hendrix’s version of this song and obviously it’s incredibly fantastic but for me the Sonic quality of Dylan’s original fits perfectly with this narrative at the heart of the song is a driving guitar and bass chord progression which Once it’s repeated a few dozen times locks you into a hypnotic momentum. onto this is added Dylan’s call-and-response lyrics with each line comprising two parts that swing pendulum-like back and forth in his singing never varying outside of a narrow lane of pitch more overtones of being trapped the high-pitched relentlessness of the harmonica interludes just fray the nerves adding to the sense of apprehension and foreboding that the song is trying to create in us All along the Watchtower princes kept the view Dylan is conversing here with two of his favorite musical Genres The song is technically a folk ballad albeit a short one. It’s a story told as a conversation that Aims to Convey a message but the fingerprints of the blues are Everywhere on the song namely one of Dylan’s Heroes Robert Johnson who the legend has it sold his soul to the devil for musical genius like Dylan Johnson told evocative stories with dark undertones on songs with simple repetitive structures Think that’s the key to the power of this song all along the watchtower delivers its prophecy of impending doom on to a steady and unfaltering foundation something that points backward to both his roots in folk and to the black roots of Rock and roll it was Bob Dylan’s great gift that he could take something that orient’s itself toward the past and push himself and his music forward It’s the music that makes all along the watchtower a cryptic Prophecy that you can’t escape something that teases you in and always at the end begins There must be some [way] out of here Sidda [Joga] [Jealousy] Is too much hey everybody thanks for watching [I] had so much fun making this video such a blast to edit if you guys want To check out my Tedx. Talk it [just] went live a couple days ago. It’s right here. It’s about video essays Thanks to lafayette college for hosting me there I hope that this video on Bob Dylan brought you guys a little bit of joy on this specially sad week And I’ll see you guys next Wednesday

99 thoughts on “Why Bob Dylan Won The Nobel Prize

  1. First, is it possible to walk along a watchtower?

    Then, John Wesley Harding was made because Dylan had a different with his manager Albert Grossmann who take a huge of the money for the songs he wrote before 1966. Dylan had to do 4 albums for Columbia. So dont be surprised because it s acoustic, he go one day in Nashville with 4 guys and left the same day the studio with the album done. It just a revenge! After his, Columbia sold Nashville Skyline with anything they had, Self Portrait is more but not great…this period, Dylan lost his inspiration!

    PS: i know i am 3 years too late…it's okay

  2. We’re stuck here in this reality, the joker is inside you, he tortures you with the thought of infinity (the DMT world) , the thief is also you, the side of that wants to hurt and do evil things. You ARE the watchtower, you’ve know too much.. The two riders is the psychedelic part, you’re on drugs so you’re afraid of cops finding you under the influence, but if you’re really thinking deep it could be Aliens or a higher power coming for you..

    Shrooms are now legal in Colorado, take some, go out in the woods and listen to the Hendrix version.. don’t be afraid, break that ceiling

  3. I'm a fan of Nerdwriter and a fan of Dylan. I love talking about deeper things. Dylan is one of my influences as a songwriter. When I write a song or a poem, I always aim to get within or beyond his standards. But then reality kicks in. Nobody wants deep songwriting these days. I stopped singing my songs and go for covers. But then when I try to cover Dylan's and other older songs with great lyrics, my only admirers are old men. My question is: is deep, poetic songwriting lost in context already? or it's just me. Just check my video first before you make judgement or advise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EtIGG5DI1o or just type conrad garcia

  4. The only time he couldn’t come up with a word was when he was asked to describe his music. He influenced many different artists.

  5. He’s black so obviously he sold his soul to the devil… that rumor was pretty racist to be honest if you think about it

  6. It's a good thing Tolstoy, Kafka, Joyce, Ibsen, Nabokov, Borges never won it cuz if they had they'd be in the company of a guy who can't put two sentences together and needs ghostwriters to do it for him

  7. In this song Dylan first is poetically showing that he has gone beyond believing that life is a joke. He has realized that life has worth. The conversation is between two sides of himself since the joker/thief are not close to being fully formed characters. The Watchtower adds a religious expectation which is mostly left unexplained. I don’t see it as an introduction to the song’s dialogue but an extension. The meaning that Dylan found as he has stated, is partly based on his growing religious belief. And no I do not believe that this song is = or greater than great novels. Watchtower is just a brief excerpt of Dylan’s move away from nihilism.

  8. He knew what he didn't play, but he couldn't decide what he did play when pressed to — all the best and most-talented musicians and songwriters (and artists/creatives of any discipline, for that matter) are like that 'cuz they're too eclectic to pigeonhole into clearly-defined yet arbitrary genres.

  9. 'This Land Is Your Land, This Land is My Land', Woodie Guthrie, is said to have been one of Bob's earliest influences.

  10. Now i know this may seem silly but i believe a perfect figure for this song to embody is The Joker from the Batman series. If you understand the characters of the joker, you'll umderstand the song. He'll explain it better > https://youtu.be/jZhwby5cujs

  11. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.
    I doubt Dylan takes this song as seriously as you do.

    Now do Ozzy.

  12. I was dissatisfied with this Dylan album …as a lyricist h4s always good but the album itself was weak I dont care about how great critics say it is or bad..it wasn't bad it was just weak and Watchtower is ok lyrics cool but to me it's a weak album..he criticized SgtPepper as indulgent as did the Keith Richards and as Lennon himself also did but Pepper nevertheless is still a masterpiece of the 60s…

  13. I'm sorry, but that doesn't justify the nobel. I think Dylan would agree if he was alive. One of the greatest songwriters ever, but no Robert Frost or T.S. Elliot.

  14. To be honest I don't even think Dylan could explain how his genius ends up on the paper it' just does, it's a gift that was handed down to him.

  15. What I like about Hendrix's version of All Along the Watchtower is that oddly does not veer all that far from Dylan's Sure, more psychedelic, but the two are very close. Also, I've always kind of thought that Dylan was just jinking with us in John Wesley Harding. Never been sure that ANY of that was meant to make much sense. Well, Dear landlord maybe not so much. But then, it took me years, decades to unpack Visions of Johanna and I loved that sucker from the moment I heard it. I was taught Dylan songs in Jr. High and when Blonde on Blonde came out I immediately bought it I was immediately confused and transcribed the lyrics and asked my English teacher, what does this mean. Pretty sure they immediately stopped teaching Dylan in English class. Eh. Tulsa.

  16. Real Dylan fans that understand how to approach Dylan’s music, don’t look this deep. This is art. There are no answers in it. The words are as gymnastic as the music. Great songwriters hated the people that looked for messages.

    Go and find the video of John Lennon who finds a young homeless guy at his mansion door and tells him there is no meaning in lyrics deeper than the songwriter shifting around words to make nonsensical but great sounding lines.

    I’ve listened to Dylan for 40years…and believe me, you are looking too hard at the words.

  17. I still can not understand how the people who hand out these prizes picked Dylan, must have been a lean,lean year for writers…….oh well …the joker & who ever

  18. Twenty-some years ago I sat, in the shade at the base of an actual watchtower, in my US Army costume, on a glaring hot African afternoon, and heard the unknowing and wondering allegory of this very conversation, between two eighteen year old knuckleheads…..found myself face to face with Dylan in the desert and shocked how fucking literal it was.

  19. You could’ve similarly examined Knocking on Heavens door, another masterpiece covered in more popular versions by other artists.

    Also, while I learned a few things and appreciate the video, are you saying Dylan won the Nobel prize in literature for writing 12 lines?

    In my view, while Dylan has written some great work he’s also written a lot of mumbo jumbo fakery that probably confuses more than it enlightens. I think this is why ppl were shocked he won the prize.

    An intellectual takes something simple and makes it complicated while an artist takes something complicated and makes it simple. – Charles bukowski

    For me at least, it’s not always easy to tell which side Dylan falls on.

  20. i have no larger perspective on whether you Nerdwriter @UCJkMlOu7faDgqh4PfzbpLdg , or maybe your contemporary/colleague, Polyphonic https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXkNod_JcH7PleOjwK_8rYQ have any love for The Grateful Dead . .. and i know the general visceral impulse for many is to dismiss this to the realm of boring weed-smoke unimportant topics. But even Martin Scorsese is apparently intrigued. . i think a piece on the fact that The Grateful Dead ( and especially Hunter/Barlowe ) became the stealth 'biggest folk bluegrass band' in music history would be fascinating. or perhaps the lead is about the duality of them as 'psycedelic messengers' … and then basically an electrified folk jug band… . just musings here. this piece here is fantastic !

  21. The desperate and ridiculous intent of north americans to justify the historic mistake they call a culture is as sad as it is hilarious. Every time a jew blows a trumpet they all sing a long.

  22. Oh, this analysis of All Along the Watchtower is pure garbage. Any poet or songwriter will verify that the creative process cannot be interpreted by the audience when it is shrouded in esoteric nuances . . . especially with Dylan's poetry, only he can tell you what it means and from what I have gathered from listening to he wouldn't even be able to do it . . . but non-creative people seem to be hell-bent on interjecting concrete interpretations of their wants, fears, desires and phobia . . . as this jerk has done here. I wouldn't check out anything of his . . .

  23. Haven't you heard of Barbara Lerner Spectre? The Jews took over Sweden first so that they could control the Nobel Prizes. There were no Jews in Science or math until the Rothschilds took over the Central Banks of Europe! Then they subsidized the shit out of the academies and pushed their tribe forward. Even so there are VERY FEW NAMES in the sciences that are Jewish. Even the ones that got a lot of PR to make it seem like there were, were frauds like Freud and Einstein. One day, after all the bias and lies have faded away, this truth will be taken for granted. How embarrassing then it will be to be Jewish!

  24. 5 Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield.

    6 For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

    7 And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed:

    8 And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights:

    9 And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.

  25. This song reminds me somehow of a Twilight Zone episode where several unrelated characters, a clown, a ballerina, a soldier are trapped in a windowless room with no memory of how they got there or how to get out. The images this song evokes leaves us in a mind loop of endless puzzles and gateways that lead nowhere like a mental labyrinth. It might be a tale of the endless cycles of karmic birth and rebirth or a haunting fairytale told on a rainy night. That is the magic and mystery of Bob Dylan

  26. in something like 300 b.c. the greek philosopher Socrates said he had gone around and talked to the poets and discovered they wrote their poetry through a kind of inspiration and that virtually anyone could discuss their poems more intelligently than they could.  that hasn't changed.  I don't think Dylan likely intended any of this.  it's like a Rorschach test–you see in it what you want to see.  Dylan probably one the nobel more for his very earliest stuff–tambourine man, blowing in the wind, it's alright ma, i'm only bleeding.  I think he's hugely great but I have trouble seeing the layers of thought in this one song you seem to find there.

  27. why dont you at least let the song plY out in its entirety and then offer your editorial instead of all your yada yada yada

  28. I don't think you really understand Dylan. There's no hidden meanings. The first two stanzas are literal — about a person who is being exploited: perhaps he had his manager in mind but others have other people in mind in their own experience.

    The line 'people think life is a joke' is just a simple truth we should remind ourselves of.

    The last stanzas fill out the landscape with simple imagery that occurs throughout the album.

    Most of the album is quite literal. And the stuff that is not is often images that can be appreciated for themselves and how they make you feel much like a modern artist or an impressionist even.

    Again, there is no hidden meaning. Affect every few years Dylan seems to want to piss off his fans to prove that very point over and over again.

    And they rarely learn.

  29. I am almost certain that Dylan didn't think about most of this when he wrote the lyrics. I think it's simply a fluid embodiment of his subconscious, albeit a brilliant one at that. Dylan wrote most of his songs – even those that are comparably complicated if overanalysed – in a matter of minutes and there's no way any person could put such irreverent meaning in 12 lines that quickly. In my opinion this is all just seeing something that wasn't there for him but can give a greater meaning to the listener upon careful analysis.

  30. I was thinking that you had kind of missed the point of dylans music and then you said 'the song is technically a folk ballad' and I realised you have entirely missed the point of his music

  31. Another smug cunt trying to decipher Dylan. Make wild assumptions and filling the page with opinions. Passing them off as facts. Dylan would probably say, it’s just another song. One of many.


  33. All Along the Watchtower and Ballad of a Thin Man have what is in my opinion the best lyrics by Dylan. But he wrote tons of great poetry (I always saw him as a poet, in good company with Jim Morrison)

  34. Some people think the 'thief' is the poet/writer. An early bootleg, a white album, uses the song "Stealing my way to You."

  35. The thief is the only honest person in a world that is false – that is, fallen. Remember the line: "To live outside the law you must be honest"? The two horsemen are a sign that judgement is coming, and when the other two arrive it is then too late. We are living in the waiting room of this fallen world, hence its sense of suspended animation, caught in perpetuity. As with many Dylan songs, we are left thinking that we have to make our own search for the truth. Somewhere in the distance seven new people are born; one of them could be us. The answer, my friends, is out there, blowing in the wind.

  36. Omg I never noticed a Adult swim bump had a song that used Dylan's watch tower as a loop, holy fuck I knew I heard it before wooooo




  38. What a crock ? Dylan wrote fantastic music and that’s enough for me. Why are you trying to make Elvis a racist thief !!!!!!

  39. Thank you for your compelling analysis of Dylan's great song 'All Along The Watchtower'. I Believe Dylan won the nobel prize in litterature for the first verse of 'My Back Pages'. "Crimson flames tied through my ears, rolling high and mighty traps, pounced with fire on flaming roads using ideas as my map, we'll meet again on edges soon said I, proud 'neath heated brow, oh, but I was so much younger then, I'm older than that now." Now, what I think happened is the guys up in Norway read that verse and asked everyone in the office if anyone understood it, when no one could say they knew what the hell it meant, the top boss for the Nobel prize probably said, "See what I mean, this is so far over our heads, the guy's a genious. Send Dylan the prize. What they should have done waasked someone with English mother-tongue what the words meant. They would have got the same answer! Just kidding! But for sure, Dylan's way with words makes singing his songs a real joy . . .

  40. Inspiration is a spiritual thing. We see it in train ; drops of Jupiter and NIN hurt, then along comes cash and Hendrix superstars in their own right and re-craft the songs like a dity the possessed must sing.

    Here two lost souls destined for hell and destruction lament the perdictment they inhabit like a Jewish slum in Nazi Germany with fences on all sides.

    I see hurt as sang by cash with this alotrope, yet with the
    Monastic twist in hurt I'd keep myself pure , I'd find my way.

    In all along the watchtower it is like rats in a maze, defiant consciousness looking for the
    Fettling ( fixed plaster from previous mouse hole) showing the mouse the way to dig out.

    These transchanneled songs have a master songwriter. And the troubador's who sing them are but that, cover bands for Satan at his most vulnerable. We stand transfixed by the glory of a falling star and it's short blaze of glory never having struck a spark into fire like children in a crib.

    That is it's draw and it's appeal, All Along the Watchtower is the transferred experience of a watcher who fell , many of them fell;but the first two are not anthropomorphized humans they are fallen Supra human that is to say angels or sons of God. And they are cast down
    One thinking himself entertaining and comical and one stealing the fire of God from the throne. ( Prometheus )
    Two aspects of one person a split minded entity geminii named lucifer.

    To quote the Bible, how art thow fallen son of the morning.
    A double minded man is double minded in all his ways.

    So the rebellious angst is mirrored with sorrow and regret . Like a tweaker
    Been my takeaway since I fist heard AATW song. It is a spiritual that belies a Stark future of hopelessness punctual with evocative regret

  41. Young Dylan would not be able to play his music in PC environment – the noble prize is for the recognition that he is the last true poet left in America

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