The 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
Dylan’s music and lyrics spoke to a generation of people during the tumultuous 1960s and helped galvanize the civil rights movement. His influence continues to permeate through rock, pop and folk music today.
The award will certainly be a surprise for some. Bookmakers’ favorites for 2016 included Japanese author Haruki Murakami, American novelist Philip Roth and Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o but the actual list of nominees will be kept secret for 50 years.
Perhaps seeking to forestall criticism, the Nobel Committee said in a statement that Dylan had “recorded a large number of albums revolving around topics like the social conditions of man, religion, politics and love” and that his words have repeatedly been republished. “As an artist, he is strikingly versatile; he has been active as painter, actor and scriptwriter,” it added.
Biography of Bob Dylan
Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1941, and released his first album, “Bob Dylan,” in 1962. That eponymous album consisted mostly of cover versions of old folk songs.
His second album, 1963’s “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” contained original songs he had written, such as “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Dozens more albums were to follow.
Since those early days, he’s collected 10 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year; one Golden Globe and one Academy Award. In 2008, Dylan won a Pulitzer Prize special citation for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”
US President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
With Thursday’s announcement, Dylan also becomes the 108th winner of the most prestigious literature award in the world.