Bob Dylan 1997 Recipient

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Throughout a career spanning nearly five decades, Bob Dylan has been one of the single most influential and continually compelling presences in American popular music, and one of the foremost songwriters of our time. His lyrics have been translated into 15 languages, and his compositions recorded and performed by thousands of singers and bands worldwide.

Born in Duluth, Minnesota, on May 24, 1941, Bob Dylan moved to New York City in January, 1961, where he became part of the burgeoning folk music scene in Greenwich Village. Heavily influenced at first by folk singer Woody Guthrie as well as by blues singers such as Mississippi’s Big Joe Williams, Mr. Dylan quickly began to transmute his influences into a style of his own. During this period, he wrote some of the best known songs of the early 196’0s – among them “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, “With God on Our Side”, and “Masters of War”.

As the 1960’s went on, Mr. Dylan began shifting his focus from overtly topical material to a more personal, poetic approach, and found strong inspiration in the possibilities of rock and roll as a form. In songs such as “Desolation Row”, “Tombstone Blues”, and especially the hit single “Like a Rolling Stone”, he found a way of combining mordant Beat-influenced poetry, surrealism, balladic folk forms, blues, and rock into a montage, by turns funny, exhilarating, and frightening, of a society in turmoil.

In 1966, a motorcycle accident forced a hiatus in his frenetic touring schedule. During this period, he recorded the informal tracks that came to be known as the “Basement Tapes”, a kind of kaleidoscope of all the influences that had gone into his music until then.

He returned to live performing in 1974 with The Band, and since then has continued to record and tour extensively. Touring highlights include 1975’s Rolling Thunder Review, and stints with the Grateful Dead, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He has recorded over 40 albums, including well-known works such as Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, Nashville Skyline, Blood on the Tracks and Oh Mercy. His album, Time Out of Mind, has been called “alchemic magic” by Time magazine. Among his other well-known songs are “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Don’t Think Twice”, “It’s All Right”, “It Ain’t Me Babe”, “Just Like a Woman”, “Lay Lady Lay”, “Forever Young”, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, “Tangled Up in Blue”, “Gotta Serve Somebody”, “Jokerman”, and “Dignity”.

In 2008, the Pulitzer Prize jury awarded him a special citation for for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power” and in 2012 Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Selection Committee

Harvey Lichtenstein, Chairman – Harvey Lichtenstein was the President and Director of The Brooklyn Academy of Music for 32 years. He led the institution to a renaissance and created of the Next Wave Festival, a multidisciplinary virtual venue for dance, theater and music.

Richard Avedon – Richard Avedon was a fashion and portrait photographer whose work behind the camera has made him more famous than all but a few of his subjects. Avedon has had major retrospectives at museums including the Smithsonian Institution, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He was the winner of many lifetime achievement awards and continued to produce new work until his death in 2004.

Jonathan Galassi – An accomplished translator and poet, as Executive Editor-in-Chief of Farrar, Straus and Girous, he is the editor of many respected writers and poets. He is also a poet in his own right, with published works in The New Yorker and the Threepenny Review. He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1989 and has served as an editor for The Paris Review.

John Rockwell – An author, journalist and critic. For over 20 years his byline was a fixture in the Arts section of the New York Times, where he served as Rock Critic, Classical Music Critic, and Music Editor. In 1994, he became the Founding Director of the very successful Lincoln Center Festival. He later returned to the New York Times as Editor of the Sunday Arts and Leisure section and then Chief Dance Critic. Rockwell is currently pursing independent projects.