Ten More Songwriters Who Could Win the Nobel Prize

When Bob Dylan recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature, it caused a lot of controversy. Do songs count as literature? According to the Swedish Academy that decides the prizewinners, they apparently do. This could open the floodgates to rock-and-rollers being championed in Stockholm. In honor of Bob Dylan coming to town November 23 to perform at the Broward Center, here are ten songwriters in order of likelihood that they could one day win their own Nobel Prizes.
  Leonard Cohen
The Canadian Bob Dylan was our first choice for this honor until news came that he died at age 82 on November 10. A poet and novelist for years, it was in song that this troubadour finally found his audience in the 1960s. Songs like "Suzanne" and "So Long Marianne" can move even the hardest of hearts. His literary skill is evident in any song you dissect over his 50-year career of recording music. His words will far outlast his mortal body. RIP.
Bruce Springsteen
Even though The Boss is only 8 years his junior, Springsteen has often been seen as Bob Dylan's songwriting descendant. His lyrics tap into a specific time and place in a way the Nobel Committee adores when handing out the award. Like Bob Dylan, Springsteen recently wrote his own autobiography, which is getting critical praise not just because of his candor but also due to his writing ability.
Paul McCartney
In a perfect world, McCartney would have shared the award with John Lennon. Very few people in the last century have written words as committed to the collective memory as their Beatles songs. What hurts Macca's chances is that his post-Beatles songwriting credits aren't nearly as strong.  But the man who gave us "Yesterday," "Hey Jude," and "Penny Lane" is a literary titan right up there with Camus or Hemingway.
The one-time frontman of the Smiths has built a thirty-year career writing lyrics that require footnotes that can be opened up to a thousand different interpretations. Like many rock legends, Morrissey wrote his own autobiography. What helps him stand out as a man of letters is that he also wrote a well-received novel in 2015, List of the Lost.
Patti Smith
The singer who has mixed politics with poetry ever since she began singing at CBGBs already earned one literary prize after her memoir Just Kids won the National Book Award in 2010. Her lyrics are strong enough that it wouldn't be out of the question for her to one day add a Nobel to her trophy case.
Paul Simon
Anyone who ever watched The Graduate knows that Rhymin' Simon can turn you to mush with his mastery of the English language. "The Sound of Silence" and "Mrs. Robinson" alone prove his ease with a pen, but go throughout his fifty-year career as a solo artist or working with Art Garfunkel and you will find comparable heft to his writing.
Joni Mitchell
The folk singer has in her later years spent more time painting than writing songs. But through the '60s and '70s, she compiled an oeuvre that merged the metaphorical with the personal on classic albums like Blue or Court and Spark.
Ray Davies
While the Kinks started out as a garage-rock version of the Beatles writing simplistic love songs like "You Really Got Me"and "All Day and All of the Night," Davies' songwriting quickly matured. He delved into the humorous with "Lola," explored nostalgia in "Waterloo Sunset," and pondered the agnostic with "God's Children."
R. Kelly
At this point, you have to accept Trapped in the Closet will outlive us all. The hip-hopera is now 33 "chapters," or songs, long with no sign of R. Kelly ever giving up on it. Some will say it's too ridiculous to ever win as haughty an award as the Nobel. But the question of whether R. Kelly might be in on the joke or whether he truly thinks the songs are as brilliant as he claims them to be adds another level to these songs, which some could easily confuse for depth.
Weird Al Yankovic
Comedy never wins awards. Neither Charlie Chaplin nor Mel Brooks ever won an Oscar. Why not buck the trend? Anyone who sings "My zippers bust, my buckles break/I'm too much man for you to take/The pavement cracks when I fall down/I've got more chins than Chinatown" to the tune of Michael Jackson's "Bad" deserves some Nobel-style recognition.
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David Rolland is a freelance writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland