When I passively heard news reports Bob Dylan had been voted into the “prestigious and elite” Academy of Arts and Letters, I was surprised, and immediately recalled famous Groucho Marx quote, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” Bob Dylan is no hoity-toity academic — he’s a measured man of depth and magnitude. What was going on?
Finally finding a moment to do my due diligence, I, of course, discovered that Dylan wasn’t honestly voted into the academy as an actual, real member — he’s just an “honorary” member of the group in which he should never become a member — because they couldn’t decide “where he fit” in their legion to give him full membership:
The traditionally staid American Academy of Arts and Letters is both charmed and flummoxed by Bob Dylan. The academy announced Wednesday that it voted the musician into its ranks — its first rock musician ever. But he will be an honorary member: Not for the first time, people couldn’t figure out how to classify Dylan.
“Bob Dylan is a multi-talented artist whose work so thoroughly crosses several disciplines that it defies categorization,” executive director Virginia Dajani told the Associated Press.
What a bunch of cerebral hooey! Look, you either take Bob Dylan on as a full and righteous member of your silly academy, or you don’t. There’s no wiggle room for genius. Just because you can’t put Dylan in a box doesn’t mean he belongs in predefined context of your leisure.
If you know anything about Bob Dylan — and I seriously doubt those overstuffed minds have nary a clue — Bob Dylan is not an elitist. He believes in people. He sings for the human condition.
Bob Dylan is a man who means something to regular folk. Everybody belongs in a Bob Dylan world. He sings about ordinary life and makes humble people spectacular.
Bob Dylan is a Living Spirit who walks the earth; not a man stepping into a Dead Letters grave.
I really hope Bob doesn’t join those nincompoops who have no idea who he is or what he stands for or how he came to define an entire generation of peaceful protest. Because to become precisely what he is not goes against everything Bob Dylan ever sang about, or wrote down; and we know him through the only thing that matters — his Word and Music — and we will never believe he gave up his idealistic rancor just to finally fit into the mainstream, middling, middleminded of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.