Minnesota native Bob Dylan awarded Légion d’honneur

Bob Dylan awarded French Legion of Honor.

Bob Dylan with French cultural minister Aurelie Filippetti after being awarded the Legion of Honor.

The nation of France awarded  iconic singer/songwriter and northern Minnesota native Bob Dylan its highest distinction this week, the
Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honor).

According to the BBC, French cultural minister Aurelie Filippetti gave a glowing speech Nov. 13, 2013, citing Dylan’s influence by French poetry and how he inspired student uprisings in the 1960s, something Dylan never much likes to take credit for. From the story:

After the speech, [Dylan] said simply that he was “proud and grateful” and left.

A journalist who attended the ceremony said Dylan, 72, had looked distinctly uncomfortable.

Given Dylan’s reclusive nature and distaste for awards ceremonies, this is not a huge surprise. Nevertheless, the fact that someone from the Iron Range won the French Legion of Honor without speaking or singing in French is worthy of mention in my book.

Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, and was raised up the road in his mother’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, on the Mesabi Iron Range. In recent years northern Minnesota native Bob Dylan has been more open about the influences of his upbringing, most recently in comments about his new art exhibit in London. He is, of course, probably the most internationally influential musicians of the past half-century and his work was extensively translated and re-recorded by prominent French musicians.

I was reviewing the list of Legion of Honor recipients since Napoleon’s creation of the honor 200 years ago looking for another Minnesotan. I thought maybe Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, the first European to reach the headwaters of the Mississippi River and namesake of Duluth would be on the list, but no. Despite opening up the Great Lakes to European exploration in the late 1600s, he was forced to return to Montreal to defend himself against false charges of treason leveled by jealous rivals. He would return to Lake Superior, settling places like Thunder Bay and later Lake Huron. He died at the age of about 71 in the year 1710 in Montreal.

I did find at least one Minnesota French Legion of Honor recipient, though, from just this year, and he’s from northern Minnesota, too. Bemidji-area decorated WWII veteran John O’Boyle won the award last summer, receiving his medal here in Minnesota. O’Boyle served with distinction and was badly wounded in the battles to liberate France.

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