Bob Dylan wins 2016 Nobel Prize for literature
Bob Dylan has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature for what the Swedish Academy said was the 75-year-old songwriter’s role in “creating new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
“He is probably the greatest living poet,” Swedish Academy member Per Wästberg said.
Nobel committee permanent secretary Sara Danius recalled Homer and Sappho, classical Greek writers who were also “meant to be performed, often with instruments — it’s the same way with Bob Dylan”.
“He is a wonderful sampler, a very original sampler. He embodies the tradition. For 54 years now he’s been at it, reinventing himself constantly, creating a new identity,” she said. She cited the 1966 album ‘Blonde on Blonde’ with “its brilliant way of rhyming, and his pictorial thinking”.
Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941 and began his musical career playing in coffee houses in Minnesota.
Much of his best-known work dates from the 1960s, when he became an informal historian for the anti-Vietnam War and America’s civil rights movements with songs like Blowin’ in the Wind and The Times They are A-Changin’.
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His move away from traditional folk to play electric music alienated some fans — one famously shouting out “judas” during a concert in Manchester in 1966.
One of his most biting early songs was It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) from 1965:
“As human gods aim for their mark/ Make everything from toy guns that spark/ To flesh-coloured Christs that glow in the dark/ Easy to see without looking too far/That not much is really sacred.”
Dylan endlessly reinvented himself, both in his music and his singing styles. His many albums include ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ in 1965, ‘New Morning’, where he experimented with country style and ‘Blood on the Tracks’ in 1975.
Since the late 1980s he has been touring almost without interruption, what was dubbed the “Never-Ending Tour”.
Dylan had long been tipped as a potential Nobel recipient, but few experts expected the academy to extend the prestigious award to a genre such as folk rock music.
His songs have been endlessly analysed by academics, with Professor Christopher Ricks, a former Oxford professor of poetry championing the songster with his book Dylan’s Visions of Sin.
The literature award was the last of this year’s Nobel Prizes to be announced. The six awards will be handed out on December 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.
Since its inception, the committee has rarely strayed outside the world of literature in awarding the prize. Perhaps the most surprising choice before Dylan was the 1953 choice of Sir Winston Churchill for his work in the field of history. The citation said the award was for “his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values”.
Three years before that the British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, won “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.”
Dylan is the first US citizen to win the prize since author Toni Morrison in 1993.
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