Yesterday, the Swedish Academy awarded Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature in recognition of, “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. While flaneurs may not have the same profile as the Nobel Academy (or a unified organization), Bob Dylan is also worthy of recognition for his contribution to wandering through cities and across the globe, too. The significance of walking, the city, and streets as public space have been evident in Dylan’s art since his move to New York City in 1961. As his profile grew, so to did his ability to explore the world. This appreciation for travel and place is reflected in many of his lyrics. More broadly, it’s heartening to use Dylan photographs to compare 1960s New York City with what exists today. While it still has many steps to take in becoming a city that puts people first, it has come a long way. And sure, there are other flaneurs and flaneuse who have shown greater commitment to promoting pedestrian friendly cities. But how many of them have travelled 1,000,000 miles and visited 800 cities (and counting) over the past 25 years? Bob Dylan: Flaneur, explorer, Nobel Laureate.
*Image: Bob Dylan’s The Freewheelin’ album cover overlaid on Jones Street by PopSpotsNYC