The Greatest-Ever Lyricists Not Named Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is generally regarded as the greatest lyricist of all time. After all, there’s no doubting his poetic prowess or genius. Even those who would never label themselves as “Dylan fans” have acknowledged his genius. Now that songwriters are once again eligible to be recognised in the Nobel’s literature category, here is a list of other living legendary lyricists who deserve a shot to make the cut.
Some Nobel purists are not keen on the idea of a musician being awarded a literature prize. At the same time, some musical purists are less than pleased with the idea that such a musician should be Dylan, as opposed to Leonard Cohen. After all, the latter’s contribution to literature is hard to deny, seeing as literary prowess is his very essence. Even his response to Dylan having won the award was poetic in nature.
If previous winners of the Nobel Prize were able to choose future winners, Smokey Robinson could start writing his speech with confidence that his name would be called. That’s based on the fact that Dylan has referred to him as the “greatest living American poet”. That might be something to do with Robinson’s knack of using well-worn love tropes to their most beautiful extent. Or maybe it’s his unmatched use of metre. Whatever the reason, if Dylan had his way, Robinson’s name would have already been called.
Joni Mitchell doesn’t regard herself as a poet. Instead, she sees herself as a painter who writes songs. If that’s true, she seems to have managed to paint humanity with fines details and the broadest of universal strokes- from the enduring shade of blue to the yellow of a big taxi to a morning’s crimson causal beads. If they’re awarding Nobel Prizes to poetry, what not painters of poetry?
Dismissing the niceties associated with happy endings and love that were once the hallmark of musical theatre, Sondheim’s lyrics are as nuanced, topsy-turvy, complex, and dark as the human condition itself. His impact, however, is tremendous- from A Little Night Music to Sweeney Todd to West Side Story, there’s no doubting the man’s literature skills are deserving of a Nobel prize. That’s if he has enough room on his shelf along with his Pulitzer, Academy Award, Tonys, and Grammys.
Kris Kristofferson’s life has certainly been a colourful one, and at shows in his subtly nuanced and richly textured lyrics. While he’s better known for holding a half-gallon of Jose Cuervo than for his Oxford University master’s degree in English, make no mistake about not: Kristofferson is a Rhodes scholar and a true academic. In 1965, when he first arrived in the state of Tennessee, he infused the Nashville sound with his own style: a personal and confessional kind of storytelling not yet heard in country music. You could call him a rebel of the genre.