Several members of the American Jewish community were among those awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday by U.S. President Barack Obama.
"What sets these men and women apart is the incredible impact they have had on so many people - not in short, blinding bursts, but steadily over the course of a lifetime," said the president in front of a room packed with senior administration officials, guests and reporters.
"No one ever picks up a guitar, or fights a disease, or starts a movement, thinking: 'You know what? If I keep this up, in 2012 I could get a medal in the White House from a guy named Barack Obama. That wasn't in the plan. But that's exactly what makes this award so special," Obama said.
The Presidential Medal of Honor is one of the highest civilian honors that can be bestowed by the U.S. president.
One recipient of the 2012 award was musician Bob Dylan, of whom Obama admitted that he is "a really big fan."
"Bob Dylan started out singing other people's songs, but as he says, 'There came a point where I had to write what I wanted to say, because what I wanted to say nobody else was writing.' Born in Hibbing, Minnesota - a town, he says, where you couldn't be a rebel; it was too cold - Bob moved to New York at age 19."
"By the time he was 23, Bob's voice, with its weight, was redefining not just what music sounded like but the message it carried and how it made people feel. Today everybody from Bruce Springsteen to U2 owes Bob a debt of gratitude.
There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music. All these years later, he's still chasing that sound, still searching for a little bit of truth," said Obama.Bob Dylan is an aquired taste, admittedly. But when one accepts the undeniable fact that, when viewing Bob's lyrics in their many varied forms, that he is nothing but sheer genius in the way he presents word collages as complete thoughts. His talent is drawing the listener in to trying to find context within his lyrics where seldom there is any whatsoever! For decades his word puzzles have intrigued the intellectual among us with its twists and turns, alternating between hard storytelling and Picasso-like cubism that could be compared to nothing else but contemporary abstract art. It's this period (Blonde On Blonde" is a great example) that intrigues me most, as it shows that a story is completely unnecessary to Dylan as he weaves his words into a fabric that is suitable for everyday viewing, whatever your mood or circumstance. His work never seems to grow old, and his chestnuts ("Forever Young", "Lilly, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts", "Idiot Wind", "Visions Of Johanna", among many) will surely last well beyond our time on this rock.
Get yourself a cool beverage, take some time to let loose of your preconceived notions about what role lyrics traditionally play in a song, and let Bob's best work transport you to a time and place that time forgot. It's a truly timeless place where characters exist outside of convention, and where stories and descriptions take on a different kind of form, or, alternately, little to no form whatsoever. Just be sure to leave your critics' credentials at the door and let the artistry overtake your sensibilities for just a short while, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much you love his work. You'll be back for more!
Tomorrow it's back into the grab bag of goodies that entertain us, inspire us, and generally keep company as we catapult into the future by relating to our past and the perspective it places on our perceptions. So, as usual, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up. See you tomorrow!