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The Times Have a-Changed: Dylan Awarded Presidential Medal

The Times Have a-Changed: Dylan Awarded Presidential Medal

Bob Dylan will be awarded with a Presidential Medal of Freedom this spring, the highest civilian honor available to a citizen of the United States. President Barack Obama announced Dylan’s name along with 12 other recipients on Thursday of this week. The award is cited as in recognition of significant impact on American culture over the last five decades.

Bob Dylan moved to New York City in 1961, a few months before his 20th birthday. By 1963, he was a sort of musical chronicler of the times and a spiritual leader in the calls-to-arms for the civil rights and anti-war movements. Before he started recording his own music, he had his name legally changed. Born Bob Zimmerman, he took his new surname as an homage to the poet, Dylan Thomas, whom he cites as an influence.

During those turbulent times, the burgeoning folk rock movement provided a shared anthem for the (mostly) young people who threw themselves into the political battle for social justice in a world apparently gone mad. This was of course the decade of MLK, the Freedom Riders, and Malcolm X; also the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, JFK, and many high-profile assassinations.

Dylan didn’t aspire to this position, but his lyrics resonated with the counter-culture of the time. Good examples include two of his early hits, “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin.’” The latter was inspired by old Irish or Scottish ballads, like “Come All Ye Tender Hearted Maidens,” but he instead directed his exhortation to socially-conservative parents, to politicians, that the world is no longer the same, that a new way of thinking would need to prevail: “Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call. . .” the folk singer begged.

Also to his credit, Dylan holds 11 Grammys, an Academy Award, a Pulitzer Prize, and the title Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Art et des Lettres from France. He’s quick to downplay his work, but his name has been floated for years as a possible contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Or would it be a tremendous stretch for someone whose work has been primarily inspirational to even be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize? There have been less-deserving recipients.

One step at a time, however. Other winners named in President Obama’s press release on the Medal are as follows: Madeleine Albright, John Doar, William Foege, John Glenn, Gordon Hirabayashi, Dolores Huerta, Jan Karski, Juliette Gordon Low, Toni Morrison, Shimon Peres, John Paul Stevens and Pat Summitt.

Speaking of them as a group, the release called the recipients “extraordinary.” It went on to say that “each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our nation. They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us, and they’ve made the world a better place.”

Related stories:

Should Bob Dylan Have Won the Nobel Prize for Literature?

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Photo credit: St. Lawrence University Yearbook, 1964

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1:46PM PDT on Aug 20, 2012

"Don't think twice it's alright" Dylan folk music genius of the 60's

10:12AM PDT on May 7, 2012

Mixed feelings - I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan and have been throughout his career.
But surely this is selling out to the establishment?

12:41PM PDT on May 4, 2012

Joel thank you for posting this 'exquisite' news! I've always been a huge Bob Dylan fan! He deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his vital contributions as a singer/songwriter who fearlessly and courageously stood his ground in the 60's against the establishment, racial prejudice and man's inhumanity to man !
And YES, Bob Dylan surely deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for raising conscious awareness through music!

I agree totally with Wende Anne M.!

Kudo's to all recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

3:17AM PDT on May 4, 2012


11:17AM PDT on May 1, 2012

well deserved bob.

4:13AM PDT on May 1, 2012

A wise decision from a wise president (at last); I've been a fan from Bob Dylan for over 50 years and still adoring many of his songs!

12:37AM PDT on May 1, 2012

Thanks for sharing

8:44AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

Finally a voice for the people. Thanks to Prez O.

8:25AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

Well deserved.

7:43AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

If I was Bob I do not know if I could tolerate being on the same platform as BO. If he is still as apolitical he will not show.

In my reckoning .... the times they are a-changin' ... is about to take a quantum leap (time to re-release the song.

Doubters check out this: (beware it may 'blow your mind)

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