Legendary musician Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

Legendary musician Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

He's the first songwriter to win the prize for literature - some are overjoyed, others not so much
13 Oct, 2016

US music legend Bob Dylan, whose poetic lyrics have influenced generations of fans, won the Nobel Literature Prize on Thursday, the first songwriter to win the award in a move that stunned prize watchers.

The 75-year-old was honoured “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, the Swedish Academy said.

The choice was met by gasps and a long round of spontaneous applause from journalists attending the prize announcement. The folk rock singer had been mentioned in Nobel speculation over the years, but was never seen as a serious contender.

The Academy's permanent secretary Sara Danius said Dylan's songs were “poetry for the ears”, but acknowledged that some might find Dylan a “strange” choice.

“But if you think back to Homer and Sappho, you realise that was also aural poetry. It was meant to be performed, together with instruments. But we still read them, 2,500-some years later... And in much the same way you can read Bob Dylan too. And you realise that he is great at rhyming, great at putting together refrains, and great at poetic images,” she told AFP.

Embodying both “the intellectual and popular tradition”, he has been influenced by the Delta blues, folk music from the Appalachians and French surrealists like Arthur Rimbaud, she said.

“Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound,” the Academy wrote of the famously private singer.

The Nobel is the latest accolade for a singer who has come a long way from his humble beginnings as Robert Allen Zimmerman, born in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, who taught himself to play the harmonica, guitar and piano.

Over the years Dylan has won 11 Grammy awards, as well as one Golden Globe and even an Oscar in 2001, for best original song “Things have Changed” in the movie “Wonder Boys”.

Speculation prior to Thursday's announcement had focused on Syrian poet Adonis and Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o.

Reactions to the choice of Dylan were mostly positive, though some disapproved.

The Academy has in the past been known to push the limits of the definition of literature, honouring for example Winston Churchill in 1953 for his wartime speeches.

Swedish music journalist Stefan Wermelin compared the choice of Dylan to that of American author John Steinbeck who won the 1962 Nobel.

“At the time there were a lot of people who wrinkled their noses because he was a 'light writer', which of course is not true.... The Academy needs to vary its choices. Sometimes it's someone unknown whom few have read, and sometimes they pick someone who has popular appeal,” he said.

“But this is the first time the prize has gone to a musical form of expression and in that genre Dylan is totally in a class of his own.”

But Per Svensson, culture writer at Swedish regional daily Sydsvenskan, called this year's choice “incredibly depressing” and a “Trumpification” of the prestigious prize to appeal to the masses.

Swedish author Johanna Koljonen noted meanwhile — to misquote Dylan — that the times are changing at the venerable 230-year-old Academy.


anon Oct 13, 2016 10:28pm
What a great excuse for a trip down memory lane this announcement has given me! To those who think that Bob Dylan's work is too low brow for the Nobel, I think they should try to think what works of art or literature will survive and be the flag bearing icons for our era, much like the legacies of Shakespeare and Shaw, da Vinci and Michelangelo are for their respective eras. If humanity does survive, whose legacy will survive from our era to be recalled five hundred or a thousand years from now? Will they say that this was the Age of the Beatles? of Dylan? of Banksy? Art and literature should stand the test of time, I feel. Only then can any work be upheld as worthy of being called priceless! And ageless!
Tahir A Oct 13, 2016 11:47pm
He was a druggie in the 1960's and his songs and lyrics suited hippies and society dropouts high on LSD. I couldn't make much of his songs in an age when Beatlemania was at peak. But here we are 50 years on and he is a laureate. "Strange" it is.
Mahmood Oct 14, 2016 12:51am
Frankly, I think Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was more deserving of a Noble Prize (perhaps even posthumously), than Bob Dylan. Nusrat's music touched us in a profound manner, and was unique.
Truth Oct 14, 2016 01:10am
Eventually, perhaps they'll be handing out Noble Prize to Rappers and Punk Rockers.
Akil Akhtar Oct 14, 2016 05:18am
Is this a joke....
M. Emad Oct 14, 2016 07:04am
Congratulation 2016 Nobel Literature Laureate and the 'Concert For Bangladesh’ performer Bob Dylan . . .
B.Ally Oct 14, 2016 07:24am
Dylan made me happy over decades. His songs and music did wonders to me. The choice of Noble Academy to honour a poetic musicIan is refreshing.
B.Ally Oct 14, 2016 07:34am
@Tahir A there is nothing strange here .its all a matter of understanding and perception about a form of litrature. You liked Beatles so million others enjoyed poetic music of Dylan over decades till today. What a grand honour he got , many many awards plus Oscar & noble like Shaw for a druggie in your terminology. He stands tall in the hall of fame. The decision of Noble Academy is refreshing.
PAATCHU Oct 14, 2016 10:20am
Strane..Strange...Strange choice indeed!!!
issak Oct 14, 2016 10:42am
who cares about these fake awards?there have been great singers from the Indian subcontinent for centuries whose melodies have been copied over the World yet aren't recognized in the western world..!
Z. Malik Oct 14, 2016 10:44am
Churchill won the nobLe prize for literature for his volumes called: "A History of the English Speaking People" and NOT for his wartime speeches! Bob Dylan is the MOST deserving winner of this year's Noble Prize for literature. He is an Icon! Congratulations to Dr. Bob Dylan!
Kau Oct 14, 2016 11:47am
Well deserved. We were delighted ,brought my youth back,pulled out the old vinyls and CD this morning and my spouse and I renewed our younger days as if it were yesterday.What a way to start a morning with a cup of coffee in hand and talking about friends who are not with us or have moved to others part of the country or world. We talked about peace or protest marches that our friends and our children participated . Congratulations Bob Dylan and to the Nobel Committee for choosing Bob Dylan for this great honor.
Sameer Oct 14, 2016 12:15pm
Nobel prizes are officially losing their charm.
Krish Chennai Oct 14, 2016 02:10pm
@M. Emad : The first song and lyric writer to win the Nobel for Literature, is Rabindranath Tagore, and Bod Dylan is the second. Tagore has penned the national anthems for two neighbouring countries, Bangladesh and India.
Skeptic Oct 14, 2016 05:57pm
Next year, perhaps they will award one to Donald Trump too!?
Vivek (Indore) Oct 14, 2016 11:02pm
Well deserved, Luminary legend, our sterling tambourine man utterly deserves it. A very happy Bob Dylan day to all the rare birds flying around.
AsifButt Oct 15, 2016 09:12am
I cant believe at all the comments which people are making here. They obviously dont understand art & literature completely. What Dylan wrote was amazing. I ask all the doubters to reproduce something original like that of Dylan. Literature need not have all to do with being orthodox. The funniest part is how all the "common people" think they can successfully criticize an award given after "proper professional judgement"