A Hard Rain Is A-Gonna Fall is a copy of an article David Williams wrote for a magazine a few years back. Enjoy!
All of us find ourselves being defined by a list of things we didn’t make up. None of us like it. If you’re like me and would like another way to find a place in the world, what happened to Bob Dylan not long ago might point the way.
You might remember the brouhaha over Dylan’s Million Dollar Nobel Lecture. It all started a bunch of decades ago when a guy in Sweden invented TNT, which governments everywhere immediately used to kill a lot of soldiers all at once, instead of one by one like they had been doing, making the guy a boatload of money.
He was otherwise a fine follow, so he eventually felt guilty about it and left most of his money as a prize for people who promote peace. Alfred Nobel figured that if you earn the wrong legacy, buy another one.
Then comes along a another guy named Robert Zimmerman who changed his name to Bob Dylan and started writing songs. A lot of people like them. Some of those people like them so much they thought of Mr. Dylan not as a musician but as their take on reality. A prophet. But Mr. Dylan never saw himself that way.
“You feel like an impostor when someone thinks you’re something, and you’re not. The image of me was certainly not a songwriter or a singer. It was more like some kind of a threat to society. And you’re just not that person everybody thinks you are, though they call you that all the time. ‘You’re the prophet.’ ‘You’re a savior.’ I never wanted to be a prophet or savior. My stuff were songs, you know? They weren’t sermons. If you examine the songs, I don’t believe you’re gonna find anything in there that says that I’m a spokesman for anybody or anything really.” (60 Minutes interview, 2004)
He knew who he was, though he knew that many people wanted him to be something else. Some of those people are in charge of Mr. Nobel’s money, and they decided Mr. Dylan deserved one of their Prizes.
That’s when the fun started. I think it went something like this: “Bobby, phone’s for you. Something about a Nobel Prize.”
“I’m not home.”
“No, really. Its somebody named…hold on, I wrote it down…Goran Malmqvist, says he’s from the Swedish Academy. Has an accent and everything. This might be legit.”
“Sure. And they’ll give Ozzy Osborne one next year. I’m not home.”
That’s right, Bob Dylan didn’t take their phone calls. Seems a tad rude, but, well, artists.
As it turns out, one can’t actually refuse being the winner, so while he was playing a concert in Stockholm anyway he went across town and picked up the medal. That should have been the end of it, but people demand that their prophets be prophetic. If he wanted the money that goes with the medal he had to actually prophesy and give a lecture, and they publicly said so, setting a six month deadline which ended in June of last year.
At that point we could figure it’s not about the money. Another million never hurt anybody, but we know he has a hundred or so of those lying around. Only Bob Dylan knows why he recorded that speech. But we do know he slid it in at the last minute on June 4, and that his ramblings about Moby Dick – a talk about literature is what they wanted – seem to have been taken straight off SparkNotes.
Attaboy, Bob, just like my ninth grade essays. Well, what did you expect? He said he wasn’t a prophet, just a songwriter, not a Nobel winner. They wouldn’t accept that, so he showed them what it looks like when we expect people to be what we decide they should be. It cost them a million to find out. Cheap, I say.
He perhaps could have made the point a better way. But it came with a price to Dylan, too. The Huffington Post told everyone this: “Dylan may be a great songwriter, a brilliant artist, and a cultural icon, but his Nobel lecture shows signs of an intellectual laziness that wouldn’t be accepted from a freshman English literature student. What a shame.”
You read that right: Bob Dylan gets to read he’s intellectually lazy. It’s a hard rain a-falling on him.
Here’s what this means to me and you: I happen to know he’s fine with whatever people say. So maybe he actually is a prophet. If one chooses to be who our Creator made us to be, disregarding imposed expectations, one will have to face somebody’s rain.
Dylan is already willingly out in it, showing that one can neither earn nor buy a legacy. You just have to be willing to stand in the rain. He and a few others are in it waiting for us.