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Covach: Dylan's Nobel Prize a Breakthrough for Pop Culture

Oct 13, 2016

John Covach, director of Institute of Popular Music at Eastman School of Music
Credit Adam Fenster

The director of the Eastman School of Music's Institute of Popular Music says Bob Dylan deserves his Nobel Prize in literature.

John Covach says Dylan got a whole generation interested in poetry and literature through his lyrics.

"And he turned songwriters toward the idea that their lyrics should say something; they shouldn't just be about teen romance or cars or surfing; they should try to say something important; something mature that rises above the adolescent and teeny-bopper culture,” he said.

"It's hard for people who weren't alive in the 60s to realize that isn't always the way it was, and if it hadn't been for Bob Dylan, it might not be that way now."

Thursday morning’s announcement by the Nobel committee was stunning, marking the first time the prestigious award was bestowed on a musician for ``having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.'' 

Covach sees Dylan's Nobel Prize as a shift in the perception of popular culture that puts in on the same level as “high” culture, such as classical music.             

"Because here's a writer of American popular songs, of course we think of them as folk songs, which are a little bit tonier.  But still, the idea that Bob Dylan should win a Nobel Prize is a fantastic thing and a real breakthrough for the 60s generation."

Covach said people who always thought Dylan's music was great now have proof that it was.