This Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, the Swedish Academy in Stockholm will award Bob Dylan with the Nobel Prize for Literature, in absentia. Patti Smith will sing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” Someone will read an acceptance speech written by Bob himself, who claimed a prior engagement.
Dylan isn’t expected back in his hometown of Hibbing, either, where townsfolk will be throwing a shindig for the music and poetry icon. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will declare Dec. 10 “Bob Dylan Day” in Minnesota. Organizers will throw a Nobel Prize reception to raise funds for arts programming for Hibbing-area students.
“Bob Dylan was a true son of the Iron Range in his independence, his talent, and his ability to triumph over adversity,” said Dayton in a prepared statement. “He spoke to a generation of young Americans, myself included, who were engaged in an unending war in Vietnam, the fight for civil rights, and rapid changes in our society. Dylan’s influence on American music and culture will be long-lasting.”
As I wrote Nov. 20, an impromptu citizen’s committee formed to honor Dylan’s accomplishment said they would redirect their efforts. The original idea of a statue proved unpalatable to a Dylan family representative, who instead said the Zimmerman family would prefer the focus to be on arts education. Nevertheless, the family did indicate support for the city’s efforts and thanked them for their work.
The new mission isn’t finalized yet, but the story has drawn the attention of statewide media, as Dylan stories tend to do. (When I was editor at the Hibbing Daily Tribune, late AP bureau chief Dave Pyle said they would take anything local that mentioned Dylan. “Anything,” he repeated. And he did).
“Art, Music and Literature in Bob Dylan’s Hometown” was the tagline of the Dylan Days event I helped organize in Hibbing from 2001-2014. Our festival wrapped up after our town’s Dylan-themed restaurant Zimmy’s closed, and other organizers retired (or started a radio variety show, in my case). What we found during that time was that the legions of Dylan “pilgrims” who came to Hibbing wanted an authentic experience, nothing glitzy. They wanted to see what it was about Hibbing that made Bob Dylan.
And I think the answers are there. The more you think about Hibbing, and particularly Hibbing of the 1950s, the more you can see the influences that blasted one Robert Zimmerman out into the world like a cannon shot. As he’s gotten older, he’s become more relatable to the people back home. He’s spoken with nostalgia and pride about his time here. And skipping a fancy event because he didn’t want the fuss? That’s as Iron Range as it gets.
The fundraising reception is 5 p.m. Saturday at the Elk’s Ballroom at the old Androy Hotel in Hibbing, Minnesota. Gov. Dayton will make his proclamation at the Hibbing High School auditorium at 3 p.m.
If you want to hear an amusing, well-done story about all this, Dan Kraker interviewed me and several others for a story on Minnesota Public Radio.