Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first American to win the top honor since Toni Morrison in 1993 and the first musician to be recognized.
The 75-year old singer-songwriter was honored for his intricate, evocative lyrics, and for his alternately political and phantasmagoric anthems such as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Forever Young,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” “Rainy Day Women#12 & 35,” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” He joins the ranks of William Faulkner, Gabriel García Márquez, Saul Bellow, William Butler Yeats, and Ernest Hemingway — all previous laureates.
In selecting Dylan, the Nobel committee praised the singer and songwriter “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” His prize comes with 8 million Swedish kronor, which roughly equals $900,000. He will be honored in Stockholm, Sweden, in December.
Dylan’s selection is a break with tradition. Although he has authored a book of poem, a collection of writings and drawings, and an acclaimed memoir, “Chronicles: Volume One,” the bulk of his writing has been the songs he popularized. Typically, the Nobel is awarded to poets or authors of short stories and novels.
Dylan’s victory also comes at the expense of Philip Roth, Ian McEwan, Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, and Don DeLillo, all of whom are frequently mentioned among the top contenders for the literary prize.
Dylan’s work draws on myriad influences. He first came to prominence as a folk singer, building on the tradition of Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie. As his career continued, he has worked in many genres, from gospel to country to rock and roll, even releasing an album of Christmas songs.
“Whatever you do. You ought to be the best at it – highly skilled,” Dylan said in a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone. “It’s about confidence, not arrogance. You have to know that you’re the best whether anybody else tells you that or not. And that you’ll be around, in one way or another, longer than anybody else.”