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Gene Simmons Says Bob Dylan’s Individuality Led to Nobel Prize Nod

Ethan Miller / Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Ethan Miller / Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Gene Simmons is quick with an answer as to why Bob Dylan deserved the Nobel Prize in literature, pointing to the narrative genius of songs like “The Times They Are a-Changing” and “Ballad of a Thin Man.”

“Those lyrics,” Simmons told Ultimate Classic Rock’s Annie Zaleski while appearing at the Visual Japan Summit. “Instead of wagging his finger into people’s faces, it seems to me that those lyrics are more about self observing. Observations on what he saw that was going on all around him. So, very few of the songs were about moon and June, and you broke my heart – like so many songs are. … Dylan never played by those rules.”

And therein lies the larger reason why Simmons has always admired Dylan. “Bob didn’t even play by Bob Dylan’s rules,” Simmons adds, specifically praising the singer-songwriter’s gutsy evolution from folksinger to late ’60s-era rocker.

“He kept doing new versions of whatever he felt,” Simmons notes. “He’s a folkie, then he plugs in and goes electric – even if his fans turned on him. How f—ing cool is that? He will go what he wants to do. So very few artists have a word that’s attached to them that’s called integrity. … Not many like him.”

Simmons specifically points to Dylan’s infamous trip to the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, when fans reacted poorly to his new sound. “He was booed off the stage,” Simmons says. “He didn’t care. He was going, ‘This is what I want to do.’ And that’s the best thing.” Fast forward nearly four decades, and Dylan still had the power to surprise: This time, it was by collaborating with Simmons, whose work with Kiss didn’t seem to have much in common with Dylan classics like Highway 61 Revisited or Blood on the Tracks. And yet the two co-wrote “Waiting for the Morning Light,” from Simmons’ 2004 solo album Asshole.

All of it translates, Simmons argues, into someone more than worthy for the Nobel honor. “How cool is it for an arrogant guy who couldn’t give a s— what anybody else thought – and, to this day, marches to the beat of his own drummer?” Simmons says. “He continues to play by his own rules, in the grand tradition of the Greeks: ‘To thine own self be true.’ And the rest of the world, be damned. No matter what’s popular, through disco and through metal, through pop and through this era, Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan. He is his own definition. How grand is that?”

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