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 []

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

Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox


Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.

And Tell Tchaikovsky The News


Chuck Berry at first annual Pen Awards for Songwriting Excellence – JFK Presidential Library, Boston, Feb. 26, 2012

Song By Prize-winning Chuck Berry Added To Favorites Of Prize-winning Leonard Cohen

In conjunction with Chuck Berry and Leonard Cohen winning the 2012 PEN New England Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award, Cohencentric is extraordinarily happy to add Chuck Berry’s classic “Roll Over Beethoven” to the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series.

This excerpt from Leonard Cohen shows there’s life in the old dog yet with launch of new album by Alex Needham (The Guardian, 18 January 2012), the report on Jarvis Cocker’s Jan 18, 2012 interview with Leonard Cohen, evidences Cohen’s approbation of Berry’s iconic tune:

The Pulp frontman [Jarvis Cocker] finished by asking how Cohen felt about being awarded the PEN New England award for literary excellence in song lyrics.

“The thing I liked about this award was that I’m sharing it with Chuck Berry,” said Cohen. “‘Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news’ – I’d like to write a line like that.”1

Chuck Berry – Roll Over Beethoven 1972

Credit Due Department: Chuck Berry photo by Michael Borkson –, CC BY 2.0,

Note: Originally posted Feb 23, 2012 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. As ongoing readers may recall, this is not the first classic rock and roll line Leonard Cohen has wished he could emulate. In Leonard Cohen: Love’s Hard Man by Alan Franks (The Times Magazine, 13 October 2001), for example, Cohen discusses this (misidentified) Fats Domino lyric:

    When I ask him [Leonard Cohen] which songs he is most pleased with, he doesn’t name any of his own but quotes the Fats Waller1 standard: ‘The Moon stood still on Blueberry Hill.’

    “If I thought I could write lines like that, I’d be more than happy.”

    See “Blueberry Hill” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox []