Songwriter and musician Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature overnight, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. While there has already been some consternation over whether music can be considered literature, Dylan has a fan in former prime minister John Howard. Yes, you read that correctly, Howard, who stood on the frontier of the culture wars (and not on Dylan’s side), has said that Bob Dylan is one of his favourite musicians. In a 1996 episode of Four Corners profiling the then-opposition leader, Howard was asked about his musical tastes and answered that he was into what people would call “protest songs by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. I like them immensely.”

Interviewer Liz Jackson prodded Howard on the point: “But you weren’t part of that protest generation”, to which Howard answered:

“Well, my views were different from some of them … I mean, I guess, everybody has … but you shouldn’t get so hung up, you shouldn’t be so politically correct, that somebody that may not necessarily share the views of the vocalist, can’t enjoy the music, that’s very narrow minded. That’s the sort of thing that you’d expect from the politically correct brigade.”

The exchange is on the Four Corners website, starting at 14:20 in the episode.

Peter Fray

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