Bob Dylan’s Honorary Princeton University Degree

When news of Bob Dylan being honored with a Nobel Prize in Literature broke a few months ago, the Swedish Academy responsible for the award acknowledged that it might appear to be an inappropriate choice. Dylan, as a musician, might not be thought of as an author so much as a composer. “If you look back,” permanent secretary Sara Danius told the press, “you discover Homer and Sappho, and they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to … But we still read Homer and Sappho…and we enjoy it, and same thing with Bob Dylan. He can be read, and should be read.”

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Bob Dylan at Princeton University, June 9, 1970. Honorary Degree Records (AC106), Box 6.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 8-14

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Bob Dylan finds inspiration at Commencement, a sitting U.S. President visits Princeton for the first time, and more.

June 8, 1976—To raise money for various projects, the Princeton University Library auctions off an “Inverted Jenny” stamp from its collections for $170,000.

June 9, 1970—Bob Dylan receives an honorary Doctorate of Music from Princeton University, on the grounds that “Although he is now approaching the perilous age of thirty, his music remains the authentic expression of the disturbed and concerned conscience of young America.” Dylan’s experience at Princeton will later inspire the song, “Day of the Locusts.”

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Bob Dylan at Princeton University’s 1970 Commencement. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box AD31, Folder 23.

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