You have to have been hiding under a rock not to know this week marked Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday (yes, it was on Monday, May 24th 2021).
Love him or hate him, you’ll at least know Bob Dylan’s talent as a wordsmith earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.
That a songwriter was recognised as a having literary worthiness was cause for much debate, but that’s not what I’m intending here. Suffice to say, he was lauded for ‘having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition’. I was impressed to read that Robert Allen Zimmerman originally chose his stage name with a nod to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas…
Writing song lyrics or a libretto for an opera or musical is a different kind of skill to other forms of writing, such as story writing, or creative non-fiction, although poetry might come close.
Today, my suggestion for your creative writing prompt/exercise is linked to Bob Dylan in that I’m asking you to take one of his songs and create new lyrics for it. Of course, if you’d rather start from scratch and write a completely new song instead, that would be brilliant!
But by taking a close look at one of Bob Dylan’s well-known songs, you can see how it works – and how the appearance of simplicity is misleading. I’ve no idea if he agonised for hours over the words or dashed them off in his 10-minute tea break, but for the rest of us, there’s work to be done in getting the rhythm, rhyme and meaning right.
Give it a go – as I’ve said before, all these little exercises are designed to hone your skills as a writer. Nothing is wasted, you may find the work re-surfaces in a later piece, but for now, the practice you’re getting in tackling different writing styles is making you a better writer.
Obviously, I’m not advocating you publish (or perform) your new version of a Bob Dylan song – plagiarism is not what I’m about. But you could have some personal fun with satire here. I mean, there’s huge potential for some humorous irony with Blowin’ in the Wind or A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, right?
I found a website with the lyrics to 503 Bob Dylan songs here. You’re welcome.
This is number 98 in my series of creative writing prompts/exercises in what began as a lockdown series of 42. If you’re new here, click for more info. The short version is there’s a new one every Wednesday at 5pm Dublin time (until I get to #101).