Bob Dylan, 75, has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is the first songwriter to receive that honor. He is also the first American to win since 1993, when the novelist Toni Morrison won.
Sara Danius, the permanent secretary with the Swedish Academy, spoke to reporters in Stockholm about the decision to honor Dylan. She told them that Dylan was chosen because he is “a great poet in the English speaking tradition. For 54 years now he’s been at it reinventing himself, constantly creating a new identity,”
Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941. He embarked on his musical career in 1959 by performing in Minnesota coffee houses. He adopted his stage name in honor of the poet Dylan Thomas. Most of his best-known songs date from the 1960s and include such works as “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which were respectively anthems of the civil rights and anti-war movements. Some of his songs have ambiguous meanings. “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” for example, has the refrain “Everybody must get stoned,” which could refer to the Biblical punishment, marijuana or both.
Dylan got his start by writing and performing traditional folk music, but explored other genres during his decades-long career. His albums have included “Highway 61 Revisited” (1965), “Blonde on Blonde” (1966) and “Blood on the Tracks” in 1975. Dylan has also been touring since the late 1980s, a feat he calls “The Never-Ending Tour.”
Dylan’s award will be presented on December 10 along with the other five Nobel Prizes. The day is the anniversary of the founder’s death, Alfred Nobel, in 1896. The Nobel Prizes have been awarded since 1901 as per the instructions in Nobel’s will. The literature prize was the last one to be announced. The other five prizes honor achievements in economics, chemistry, physiology/medicine, physics and peace.