Growing up in Northern Minnesota With Bob Dylan and Understanding His Decision Not To Show In Person to Accept His Nobel Prize Award

Bob Dylan, Circa 1960’s


News of Bob Dylan’s apparent refusal to show up in person to accept his Nobel Prize in Literature in December has miffed a lot of people. The honor, as the New York Times reported, would elevate him “into the company of T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett.”

Dylan hasn’t proffered a reason for not attending the prestigious event The Times lamented that Dylan has simply claimed to “be busy” and has failed to offer any details. The paper went further stating, “ Like a teenager being coy about whether to accept an invitation to the prom, he refused to commit to attending the traditional white-tie award ceremony on Dec. 10.”  

Rolling Stone weighed in on the subject reporting “A member of the Swedish Academy, the group that bestows the Nobel Prize, has spoken out about Bob Dylan‘s overall lack of recognition about winning their literature honor. “One can say that it is impolite and arrogant,” writer Per Wästberg said.”

Dylan belatedly accepted the award stating that he was “elated” to receive the prize. As part of the program, the recipient must give some type of lecture or presentation.

The ceremony is on December 10th in Stockholm and Oslo. The lectures must be provided within six months after this date.


Growing up in a small northern Minnesota town had a few advantages and significant shortages. The good part of living in a town of fewer than 1,000 people is that you knew everyone, including their families. There was no crime to speak of. The bad part, at least for me, was that the one attractive girl moved 150 miles away to Minneapolis in the summer after graduating from 9th grade. Pickings turned bleak that year after she left, tourists went home, fall and winter embraced the northern winds. The lakes and rivers froze.

About the only thing that a guy could do for fun, aside from snowmobiling, ice fishing, and hunting, was to listen to music. There were only AM radio stations in the 1960s, and the only ones that played rock-and-roll, that you could get reception on, were out of Little Rock and Chicago, thousands of miles away.

We would escape the cold by hanging out in Wynn’s garage, equipped with a crude wood-burning stone, electricity, and fridge. We could smoke and drink beers and liquor there– no cops. We all chipped in to buy a cheap phonograph and tapped the resources of Lee Spatgen, who had recently also moved to Minneapolis and got a job working at Music Land: He would bring up five music albums every other weekend compliments of his skills at five-finger-discounting.

We had more than 3 Dylan albums and knew every word and every song. We applied his concepts to our everyday lives. I can’t recall how many times I said to someone I was upset with:

I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment, I could be you
Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
You’d know what a drag it is to see you.”

Dylan was so special because we were all from northern Minnesota. Some traced Dylan’s music to the Ten O’Clock Scholar bar near Seven Corners’ by the U of M and dreamed of following his footsteps in the music world. He was our hero. He still is. We watched from afar as he gained fame out of Greenwich and spanned out across the world; when he changed from acoustical to electric, from God back to folk. We cheered for him on like our basketball teams during tournaments.  

Bob Dylan has always been original, in his prose and song, and in his personal life. It does not surprise me to learn that he has not leaped to accept the Nobel-prize in person. His delay and reluctance are vintage Dylan. He does it his way, on his own terms. I like Dylan’s direction.

Leave a Reply