Bob Dylan swears he’s excited to be the first rocker to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature — it’s “amazing, incredible” — but he’s not going to be able to make it to Sweden next month to pick up his prize in person. Oh, and he’ll also be passing on a White House reception for this year’s U.S. Nobel laureates.
Today, President Barack Obama will be welcoming several American prize-winners to congratulate them before they head off to the Swedish ceremony. A White House spokesman, though, says that “unfortunately, for those of you wondering, Bob Dylan will not be at the White House today.”
Not that Obama likely expected Dylan to make an appearance. In a 2010 Rolling Stone interview, Obama reminisced about the time Dylan came to the White House to receive the National Medal of Arts.
Here’s what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you’d expect he would be. He wouldn’t come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing before the set in the evening. He didn’t want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn’t show up to that. He came in and played “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage — I’m sitting right in the front row — comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin, and then leaves. And that was it — then he left. That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: That’s how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don’t want him to be all cheesin’ and grinnin’ with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise. So that was a real treat.