An Analysis Of Qualities Common To Musicians Who Win Literary Awards: Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, & Chuck Berry

lc-db-bd1200When Bob Dylan became the first pop musician awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, I recalled that Leonard Cohen was the first pop musician to win the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature (2011) and Cohen and Chuck Berry were the inaugural recipients (in 2012) of the  PEN New England  Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award.1

In his PEN Award acceptance speech, Leonard Cohen claimed he and Chuck Barry were chosen as the first recipients of the honor on “the basis of seniority.”  As I pointed out in a Feb 2012 post, I hesitate to disagree with this site’s icon of choice, but I am obligated to point out that he – and the many periodicals, broadcast stations, and online sites reporting on this event – have inexplicably overlooked two other rather obvious attributes common to him and the Father of Rock and Roll that were either coincidences on a cosmic scale or, one must assume, weighed in the judges’ decision to confer this honor upon them:

  1. Signature hats
  2. Bolo ties2

And, the naming of Bob Dylan as Nobel Laureate further supports this observation. Check out the composite photo atop this post: three literary award-winning musicians who are senior artists adorned with bolo ties and distinctive headgear.

How To Win A Major Literary Award As A Musician

So, for all you aspiring literary award winners, Cohencentric  offers these recommendations based on the Cohen-Dylan-Berry Criteria:

  1. Do not, advice from The Who notwithstanding, die before you get old.
  2. Wear a hat that fits your style.
  3. Drape a nifty bolo tie around your neck.
  4. Write exquisite song lyrics.

Credit Due Department: Leonard Cohen photo by Ashley Tanasiychuk. Chuck Berry photo by Masahiro Sumori – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia. Bob Dylan photo by Alberto Cabello from Vitoria Gasteiz – Bob Dylan, CC BY 2.0, via Wikipedia


  1. Wouldn’t you think that an organization of “poets, playwrights, essayists, editors, and novelists” could come up with a name for their prize that flows off the tongue more trippingly than “The PEN New England  Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award?” []
  2. See Up Close With Leonard Cohen And His Bolo Tie []

Leonard Cohen & Bob Dyan: Les Inrocks “Double Cover, Two Genius. We Are Not Nobel But Sometimes We Are Noble”

Update; See Les Inrocks Double Cover: Leonard Cohen & Bob Dylan (Oct 19, 2016)

Bob Dylan Congratulates PEN Lyrics Award Winners Chuck Berry “Shakespeare Of Rock And Roll” & Leonard Cohen “Kafka Of The Blues”

To Chuck, the Shakespeare of rock and roll, congratulations on your PEN award, that’s what too much monkey business will get ya . . . Say hello to Mr. Leonard, Kafka of the blues, and Lord Byron Keith [Richards] if he shows up. In all seriousness, Chuck, congratulations on this prestigious honor. You have indeed written the book with a capital B, and congratulations to Leonard, who’s still writing it

Bob Dylan writing on the occasion of the 26 February 2012 PEN New England Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award Ceremony

Note: “Too Much Monkey business” refers to Berry’s song of the same name.

Chuck Berry – Too Much Monkey Business

\Note: Originally posted Feb 27, 2012 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Clarifies His “Canadian Bob Dylan” Epithet & What Happened At That 1966 Party At Frank Scott’s House

Q: Back in the ’60s, there was talk of you being a Canadian Bob Dylan. Didn’t you make that analogy yourself at the time?

No. That got into the press. I’d never say that any more than I’d say I want to be the next William Yeats or the next Bliss Carman. You know how that arose? There was a party at Frank Scott’s house. I had a record of Bob Dylan, and I brought it to this party. There were all these poets, Layton, and Dudek and maybe Phyllis Webb. It was probably Bringing it All Back Home. It was one of his early records I said, fellas, listen to this. This guy’s a real poet. I put the record on, and it was greeted with yawns. They said, ‘That’s not a poet.’ I said, ‘No, I insist, let me play it again.’ They said, ‘Do you want to be that?’ That’s how it arose. But it’s not my syntax. Anyway, they didn’t like it. But I put it on a few more times, and by the end of evening they were dancing.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

See Leonard Cohen Introduces Bob Dylan’s Music To Major Canadian Poets At 1966 Montreal Poetry Party

Q: You said that an audience brings a lot to someone like Bob Dylan. They bring a lot to you as well.

Yes they do. As I said in the concert, this is every musician’s dream, to stand in front of an audience and not have to prove your credentials, to come into that warmth. Of course, it creates other anxieties, because you really want to deliver. There’s a lot to live up to. But it is quite a rare thing.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Both excerpts are from Cohen wore earplugs to a Dylan show? by Brian D. Johnson (Maclean’s: June 12, 2008)

The Cohen-Dylan Interface

All posts about Leonard Cohen’s & Bob Dylan’s opinions of each other, their meetings, and comparisons by others can be found at