Bob Dylan on his 80th: Wolf Biermann congratulates

literature Wolf Biermann on Bob Dylan

“My brightest star in the song sky”

Wolf Biermann (l.) Celebrates Bob Dylan

Wolf Biermann (l.) Celebrates Bob Dylan

Quelle: picture alliance/Sven Simon; Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives

With all of his metamorphoses, Bob Dylan has only gotten younger and younger, writes Wolf Biermann. Fans have long known: “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” An eulogy for the 80th birthday.

Ahen I invented the word “songwriter” 100 years ago in the plebeian manner of the “playwright” Brecht, there was the poète-chanteur Georges Brassens in France, the songwriter Woody Guthrie in the Anglo-Saxon world, and there were the Russian “bards “Bulat Okudschawa and Vladimir Vysotsky, in Sweden Nils Ferlin:” en trubadur “. Later I met the Cantautores in Spain and Catalonia. In every corner of the world you can find a special local size, which is precisely why it can become world-wide. Bob Marley, Violeta Para and Atahualpa Yupanqui. So did my Greek Bob Dylan: the pop poet Dionysis Savvopoulos. And so the star of Africa, Miriam Makeba, shone for me in the GDR, and it shone for us in Europe too.

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When, at the age of 40, I was unexpectedly pushed into the open from East Berlin and now finally – and “in real”! – could lick the songs on humanity, there was at least such an original song poet or a singing Sappho in almost every country and in every language.

Our German master singers in Luther’s time called this unmistakably unique tone in their guild jargon “dôn and wīse” – that is, melody and text. And the sound is something like “the great sound” in New German. You hear three bars and you know.

Nobel Prize for Literature 2016

Among the living, Bob Dylan is my brightest star in the song sky. And he didn’t need the Nobel Prize to hit the tone of his era so perfectly. Rather the other way around: The literary jury at its meeting in the inn “Den Gyldene Freden” in Stockholm needed this stubborn candidate in order to finally be up to date again.

A few years ago I discovered an almost unknown poem of his, which he had carved out en passant in 1963: „Eleven Outlined Epitaphs“. This very young guy first told mankind what should one day be on his tombstone. Little known today: a colossal American painting of morals in which the beginner rhymes rules of thumb about how to live properly, how to love, how to perfect poetry and sing. Wise wisdom of the life of a greenhorn. But when a genuine genius pulls something out, it’s an inspiration for us. So I composed his verses in my German, and bundled them in a fine little book: “Eleven drafts for my grave verse”.

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Bob Dylan in 2004

Wolf Biermann on Bob Dylan

And with his six and a half folk-rock guitar fingerings and his monotonous croaking, Bob Dylan is even the musician on the senior keyboard that the muses kiss with passion. He not only “blues” the third and seventh like every normal blues singer since Big Bill Broonzy, but he sings all of his notes “blue”: every note a bit of melancholy too deep, but everything is consistent. This is how his unmistakable sound emerges: a rebellious piety.

Robert Allen Zimmerman alias Bob Dylan

The celebrated Robert Allen Zimmerman, born on May 24, 1941, comes from Minnesota, the US state with the symbol of the Loon. The divine blues singing from the beak of these Nordic waterfowl is a melodic howl. This is a tone that the hunters there imitate when they want to lure and shoot the loon. Bob Dylan can do this magical “dôn” perfectly.

His life – a sequence of disharmonious changes, sometimes with and sometimes without this or that God. He always delivers the same to us as someone else. And his doubts about everything apparently functions vegetatively like breathing. But as for his desperation, I can’t see anything.

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Dylan has grown younger with all of his metamorphoses. Picasso also knew this paradox when he joked: It took me many years to finally become young. Dylan wrote the same thing more densely, prosapoetically, in his song, which some fans could at least sing along in tatters: “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

Wolf Biermann, born in 1936, is probably the most famous songwriter in Germany. In 1976 he was expatriated from the GDR during a concert tour to the west. In 1991 he received the Georg Büchner Prize. In autumn Suhrkamp-Verlag will publish “Mensch Gott” with poems and songs from five decades.


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