I was surprised when Bob Dylan got the Nobel Prize for literature, So was he. But after I thought it over, it made sense. Few people read literary poetry anymore. In fact few people read literary anything anymore, so why give prizes for writing stuff few people read?
In the last century, the professors persuaded us that literary poems and novels were incomprehensible without their help. But who wants to read a poem or a book with a professor looking over his shoulder? People blame technology for the decline in our reading skills (80% of US families did not read a book last year), but long before computers our teachers drained all the fun out of reading. Remember “Run, Spot, run. See Spot run”? Has anyone ever cared if Spot ran or not?
If poetry has a future, it lies in the revival of its ancient partnership with music.
Music and poetry went together like a horse and carriage before the invention of the printed book. Maybe the internet, which is causing a realignment of our ways of communicating that is every bit as revolutionary as the printing press, will revive the alliance of poetry and music. Maybe in the future, poets will need to read music and play an instrument.
Technology has made available not just the songs of today but those of yesterday and the day before yesterday. Maybe this will promote a greater historical consciousness. (“I’m just a cockeyed optimist.”) I think music does this better than just words on a page. Maybe those who look back nostalgically at Gimme Some Lovin’ will come to appreciate the nostalgia of us antediluvians who look back nostalgically at Tea for Two and Make Someone Happy, especially the latter.
Make someone happy,
Make just one someone happy.
Make just one heart the heart you sing to.
One smile that cheers you,
One face that lights when it nears you.
One gal you’re everything to.
Fame, if you win it,
Comes and goes in a minute.
Where’s the real stuff in life to cling to?
Love is the answer,
Someone to love is the answer.
Once you’ve found her,
Build your world around her.
Make someone happy.
Make just one someone happy
And you will be happy too.
Lyrics by Betty Comdon and Adolph Green, music by Jule Styne