Steeped deep in American folk music, its lyrics encompassed the sagacity of Homer’s literary works “The
‘ and the allegorical undertone of Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’. In fact, in his Nobel lecture, which was dubbed almost six months after winning the prize, the great songwriter had mentioned these two books as inspiration for his songs.
Speaking of the allegorical nature of Melville’s iconic story, Dylan said: “We only see the surface of things. We can interpret what’s underneath as we see fit… This theme and all that it entails would run into more than a few of my songs.
The famous literary work was not only a subtle influence on Dylan’s lyrics, but also a literal influence, as many argue that in the song “Bob Dylan 115th Dream”, the nautical references are actually a nod to this Melville masterpiece.
Similarly, Homer’s Odyssey – a story that tells of a married man’s journey around the world and return home with his wife – is reflected in Dylan’s song “Isis” from his 1976 album “Desire “.
Besides the classics, the biggest influence on Dylan’s works came from the poets of the beatnik movement. From Allen Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac, these poets have defined the evolution of Dylan’s work and the singer has drawn much inspiration from them.
Dylan had once said that it was these two writers who inspired him from the very beginning, because where he comes from, “there is no sophisticated transport”, so he used their words to teleport. Needless to say, Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems’ is one of his favorite books, and he also loved Karouac’s ‘On The Road’.
Apart from these authors, Dylan was a fan of Henry Miller and treasured his book “Tropic of Cancer” and John Steinbeck’s masterpiece “The Grapes of Wrath”.
However, although the legendary singer was inspired by various pillars of literature, he evolved his style and syntax to speak of social struggles and political protest in folk tunes with precise and pointed words, and explored love and religion in his glorious surreal songs and that is why Dylan’s lyrics are to be remembered for their beauty and should be read as part of a literature that defies boundaries.
Happy birthday Bob Dylan.