News Flash: Dylan Receives Kennedy Center Medal Of Honor

Bob Dylan's weekend in Washington, D.C. was an exercise in polarity: the

folk-singing spokesman for a generation first spent Thursday and Friday

digging into rousing performances at the small, dark confines of the 9:30

Club; one day later, he was welcomed to the grand halls of the Kennedy

Center to have bestowed upon him the nation's most prestigious artistic

awards, the Kennedy Center Medal of Honor.

More significantly, Dylan, 56, was hailed on Saturday by the entrenched

establishment against which he railed more than 30 years ago in songs such

as "The Times They Are A-Changin'."

Conservative House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) -- leader of the

Republican guard that counts the societal revolution of the 1960s as the

great seed for many of today's social ills -- said at the gala, "The sheer

magic for I think everyone in my generation, is to finally have our nation

recognize Bob Dylan," according to The Washington Post.

Since 1977, the Kennedy Center Honors have been held annually to celebrate

luminary Americans in the performing arts. Also saluted this year were

actors Charlton Heston and Lauren Bacall, opera singer Jessye Norman and

dancer Edward Villella.

"To have Bob Dylan here joining all these other artists, honored by his

country -- this represents the triumph of rock 'n' roll," musician and

producer Don Was told The New York Times. "It's like the passing of

the baton. It's such a victorious moment."

Was played bass on the several Dylan songs performed by others on Saturday

night as a tribute to the songwriter. Medal recipients are invited to

suggest those who will honor them, and Dylan hand-picked Was, mandolin

player G.E. Smith, drummer Steve Jordan and keyboardist Clifford Carter to

serve as the back-up band, according to the Post.

Bruce Springsteen sang "The Times They Are A-Changin'," while country and

western artist David Ball performed "Don't Think Twice" and gospel singer

Shirley Caesar reportedly brought the house down with "You Got to Serve

Somebody."

According to all accounts, the typically quiet Dylan, who has had mountains of critical praise heaped on his latest album, 1997's Time Out Of Mind, maintained a low

profile throughout the evening. At one point, Bacall took the singer on

her arm and encouraged him to smile for photographers, reported the

Post.

"He probably had more impact on people of my generation than any other

artist," said President Clinton .

Saturday's ceremony will be broadcast on CBS on Dec. 26. -- Chris Nelson [Mon., Dec. 8, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]