Traditionally, you've had to work for a daily newspaper or wire service to win the most coveted award in journalism. Now we know it also helps a lot if your name happens to be Bob Dylan.
Earlier this month, the Shakespeare of folk and rock-and-roll music was awarded an honorary Pulitzer for his "profound impact on popular music and American culture," according to the accompanying press release.
Pulitzer administrator Sig Gissler said the distinction "reflects the efforts of the Pulitzer board to broaden the scope of the music prize."
The gesture tells us a lot more about the empty state of the Pulitzer -- and of journalism -- than it does about Dylan, 66, who has been earning accolades throughout his 46-year career. While the judges honored a rock star, they couldn't bring themselves to hand out an award in the category of editorial writing.
As a great man once sang, something is happening here...
But I do think I know what it is.
'How does it feel' to be exploited?
The award suggests that the media industry feels out of touch with the public and will do (practically) anything to reconnect with it. It's pathetic that Pulitzer judges apparently have to fall back on gimmicks like this to get people to take journalism seriously.
I don't know what Dylan thinks about it because he has been characteristically mum. I'd love to ask him, turning the signature line from his biggest hit, "Like a Rolling Stone," on its head: How does it feel to be exploited by the Pulitzer judges?
This certainly isn't the first time that Dylan has been seized upon by someone seeking to bask in his glow. He and members of The Band accepted an invitation from then-Gov. Jimmy Carter of Georgia to visit his official residence when the musicians toured in 1974. Two years later, when Carter was running for president, he went a step further and quoted from Dylan's songs in a widely discussed attempt to reach young voters.
Then, in 1997, Dylan sang three songs -- "Forever Young," "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" -- at the invitation of Pope John Paul II at a concert in Bologna, Italy.
Sean Wilentz, a history professor at Princeton University and the historian of Web site bobdylan.com, was happy to see Dylan receive his latest honor.
"Usually this sort of recognition comes after the artist is utterly respectable and sitting in a rocking chair -- or safe in heaven dead. But Dylan is still on the road, in every sense of the word -- and who knows what's just around the bend?" he said.
"I imagine the [Pulitzer] jurors are now of an age when listening to Dylan was a youthful rite de passage," Wilentz said. "And Bob's been reaping a lot of honors lately -- so the Pulitzer people may just be jumping on the bandwagon."
Put simply, the Pulitzer judges took advantage of Dylan's fame to punch their own "cool" card.
If anything, Dylan should have gotten recognition like this for the work he did in the early 1960s. Back then, his anthems -- "Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They Are A-Changin,'" "Masters of War" and "Chimes of Freedom," among them -- helped change the world by inspiring both civil-rights and anti-war activists everywhere.
As a card-carrying Dylan fanatic, I am very happy for him. Do you know anyone besides me who will proclaim that "Self Portrait" was a great album? I also have about 50 Dylan bootlegs stored on my Apple (TICKER:AAPL) iPod.
Now, Dylan can put his Pulitzer memento on a shelf in his home in Malibu, Calif., right next to the honorary degree that Princeton gave him in 1970, the Oscar that he won for "Things Have Changed" from the movie "Wonder Boys" in 2001, his Grammy from 1998 for "Time Out of Mind" and the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (the highest honor a foreign rtist can receive from France), which he accepted in 1990.
Dylan must be the most surprised person in the world that he got a Pulitzer. As he wrote in his memoirs, titled "Chronicles, Volume One": "The Press? I figured you lied to it." Anyone who saw the original cut of "Dont Look Back" remembers the scene in which Dylan verbally pummeled a reporter from Time.
If Dylan gets around to writing "Chronicles, Volume Two," he might be moved to write, "The media? I figured they exploited you."
: Assuming this won't be the last time the Pulitzer committee honors a pop star, who should get the next one? A.) Bruce Springsteen; B.) Stevie Wonder; C.) Joan Baez; D.) Paul Simon; E.) other (you cast a vote).
: Plenty of media critics acted a tad too self-important when critiquing last week's debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Many of their pedantic and self-serving accounts stressed the performance of the ABC anchors more than that of the two Democratic presidential candidates. Personally, I'd rather know more about Clinton and Obama than Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos.
to my question: Who is your favorite baseball announcer?
"Jon: Really enjoyed reading this. My favorite announcer is Mets' radio guy Howie Rose. And, by the way, the best baseball columnist on the planet is another Jon: Jon Heyman of CNN/Sports Illustrated ."
-- Roberto Dias, Cyprus
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By Jon Friedman