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Bob Dylan's message is especially relevant today

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 13 October 2016, 22:42 IST

Finally, after years of speculation that he would, Bob Dylan has won the Nobel in Literature. While some say that it never should never have happened, and some say it's long over due, the fact is that the timing is perfect. Because Dylan's message has never been more relevant than it is today.

The fact is, Dylan's Nobel isn't just a reward for a lifetime of outstanding songwriting and poetry. It's a reminder of Dylan's message - a powerful one put out by a man equal parts poet and prophet. A message we would all do well to remember in these times when the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. A message of peace.

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The lack of social awareness in today's music

The environment that produced Bob Dylan was a grim one. Most people had either lived through the devastation wrought by the second world war or were living in its aftermath. It wasn't just war either. The US, Dylan's immediate environment, was also at a crucial point in the black civil rights movement.

The world today might have come a long way since, but it isn't all too different to the grim environment that produced Dylan's most brilliant music. We have wars, the largest ever refugee crisis, inequality and civil rights struggles.

Dylan wasn't blind to the world's ills - He saw it, he studied it, internalised it and responded to it

Yet most songs today are based on the frivolous or the extravagant. The space in between is occupied by mindless pop songs and ballads by eternally heartbroken artists. It's the product of living in a time where consumerism is a way of life. The closest we've come recently to a song that is socially aware is the Black Eyed Peas' desperate attempt to reclaim relevance with a rehashed 'Where Is The Love'.

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Dylan, however, wasn't blind to the harshness of the world around him. He saw it, he studied it, internalised it, and, through his music, responded to it.

His message was a wake up call to a generation, a reminder of the need for a course correction. And, today, when current pop culture icons fail woefully to look beyond all things shiny, his message is still there, still relevant and begging to be rediscovered.

Dylan's message of peace, justice, tolerance & equality

Dylan didn't start off preaching a message, that started after he met his girlfriend, Suzie Rotolo, who happened to be a leftist. Through her, Dylan was introduced to a world of writers and poets who would broaden the young singer-songwriter's worldview. Rotolo also helped shape Dylan's political awareness.

Dylan repeatedly delved into racial issues, drawing them into the mainstream consciousness.

The stimulation might have been external, but the results were all Dylan. In just under two years he produced a small collection of 'protest' songs whose messages still resonate today.

The first, The Ballad of Emmett Till, was about a 14-year-old black boy who was beaten and shot for whistling at a white woman, another, Oxford Town, was about riots that broke out when the first black student was admitted to the University of Mississippi. Both songs are still relevant today, at a time when the Black Lives Matter campaign is so desperately relevant yet still being questioned.

Also read -These 10 lyrics to Bob Dylan songs prove that Nobel prize for literature was long overdue

Dylan repeatedly delved into racial issues, drawing them into the mainstream consciousness, as he did with Hurricane.

This message isn't just limited to the racial struggle either. It's relevant to all the bigotry in the world today, from that which spews from Trump's gullet to the ostracisation of refugees and, closer to home, the atrocities faced by Dalits.

Not just race, Dylan's message of equality is even relevant to India's caste struggle.

His more general messages though, like those in Blowing In The Wind and The Times They Are a-Changing, are ones that have a universal appeal and are especially relevant.

In them, Dylan calls for an end to war, an end to inequality, slavery. He demands the pulling down of old institutions and a breaking away from conservative values from previous generations. These messages apply to LGBT struggles, women's issues, inequality, bigotry, injustice and bias.

If we're wise we'll use this Nobel moment, not just to listen to a little bit more Dylan, but to listen in to more of his music.

First published: 13 October 2016, 22:42 IST
 
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