Singer Bob Dylan is 2016 Nobel Prize winner for Literature

American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. PHOTO: COLUMBIA
US poet and folk singer Bob Dylan performs in France on July 22, 2012.
US poet and folk singer Bob Dylan performs in France on July 22, 2012.PHOTO: AFP
US poet and folk singer Bob Dylan performs in Kent on June 30, 2012.
US poet and folk singer Bob Dylan performs in Kent on June 30, 2012.PHOTO: AFP
US poet and folk singer Bob Dylan performs at the Gurtenfestival in Berne, Switzerland on Jult 19, 1993.
US poet and folk singer Bob Dylan performs at the Gurtenfestival in Berne, Switzerland on Jult 19, 1993.PHOTO: EPA
US poet and folk singer Bob Dylan performing in Paris on July 4, 1978.
US poet and folk singer Bob Dylan performing in Paris on July 4, 1978.PHOTO: AFP
US poet and folk singer Bob Dylan performs at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on May 5, 2004.
US poet and folk singer Bob Dylan performs at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on May 5, 2004.PHOTO: REUTERS
US poet and folk singer Bob Dylan performs in Paris on Oct 8, 1987.
US poet and folk singer Bob Dylan performs in Paris on Oct 8, 1987.PHOTO: AFP

STOCKHOLM (REUTERS, AFP) - Bob Dylan, regarded as the voice of a generation for his influential songs from the 1960s onwards, has won the Nobel Prize for Literature in a surprise decision that gave a singer-songwriter one of the world’s most prestigious cultural awards.  

His songs such as Blowin’ In The Wind, Masters Of War, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, The Times They Are A-Changin', Subterranean Homesick Blues and Like A Rolling Stone captured a spirit of rebellion, dissent and independence. 

"Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound,” the Swedish Academy said on Thursday (Oct 13), when it awarded the 8 million Swedish crown (S$1.29 million) prize.  

Dylan, 75, was honoured “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” the Academy said.

The announcement was met with gasps in Stockholm’s stately Royal Academy hall, followed – unusually – by some laughter.

 

The folk singer has been mentioned in Nobel speculation in past 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.”

The Nobel award 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.

Dylan’s songs, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “The Times They Are a-Changin’”, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Like a Rolling Stone” captured a spirit of rebellion, dissent and independence.

Some lyrics have resonated for decades. “Blowin’ in the Wind”, written in 1962, was considered one of the most eloquent folk songs of all time. “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, in which Dylan told Americans “your sons and your daughters are beyond your command”, was an anthem of the civil rights movement and Vietnam War protests.

More than 50 years on, Dylan is still writing songs and is often on tour, performing his dense poetic lyrics, sung in a sometimes rasping voice that has been ridiculed by detractors.

 

“He is probably the greatest living poet,” Swedish Academy member Per Wastberg said.  

Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Nobel Academy, told a news conference there was “great unity” in the panel’s decision to give Dylan the prize.  

Swedish Academy member Per Wastberg said: “He is probably the greatest living poet.”

Asked if he thought Dylan’s Nobel lecture – traditionally given by the laureate in Stockholm later in the year – would be a concert, replied: “Let’s hope so.”

Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Nobel Academy, told a news conference there was “great unity” in the panel’s decision to give Dylan the prize. 

Over the years, not everyone has agreed that Dylan was a poet of the first order. Novelist Norman Mailer countered: “If Dylan’s a poet, I’m a basketball player.” 

Dylan has always been an enigmatic figure. He went into seclusion for months after a motorcycle crash in 1966, leading to stories that he had cracked under the pressure of his new celebrity.

He was born into a Jewish family but in the late 1970s converted to born-again Christianity and later said he followed no organised religion. At another point in his life, Dylan took up boxing.

Dylan’s spokesman, Elliott Mintz, declined immediate comment when reached by phone, citing the early hour in Los Angeles, where it was 3 a.m. at the time of the announcement. Dylan was due to give a concert in Las Vegas on Thursday evening.

Literature was the last of this year’s Nobel prizes to be awarded. 

The prize is named after dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and has been awarded since 1901 for achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with his will. 

The 2016 laureates will receive their awards – a gold medal and a diploma – at a formal ceremony in Stockholm as tradition dictates on December 10, the anniversary of the death of prize creator Alfred Nobel.

A separate ceremony is held in Oslo for the peace prize laureate on the same day, as the Norwegian Nobel Committee grants that award.