US singer Bob Dylan, who became an informal historian of America’s troubles, on Thursday became the first songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
He is the first American in 23 years to win the coveted prize for literature. The last American to get the Nobel Literature Prize was novelist Toni Morrison — in 1993.
The 75-year-old Dylan was named the winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary Sara Danius announced here.
In a video interview, Danius said: “He is a great poet in the English speaking tradition and he is a wonderful sampler, a very original sampler. He embodies the tradition and for 54 years, he has been at it, reinventing himself constantly and creating a new identity.”
Danius cited the examples of poets like Homer and Sappho, “whose poetic texts were meant to be listened to and performed”, to describe why Dylan makes for an apt choice for the Nobel Literature Prize.
“He can be read and should be read, and is a great poet in the English tradition,” added Danius, who is herself a fan of his 1966 album “Blonde on Blonde” — an “extraordinary example of his brilliant way of rhyming, and pictorial filming”.
Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941 and began his musical career in 1959, playing in coffee houses in Minnesota.
Much of his best-known work dates from the 1960s. Songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They are A-Changin'” became anthems of the anti-war and civil rights movements.
His move away from traditional folk songwriting, paired with a controversial decision to “go electric” proved equally influential.
Dylan is already the recipient of 11 Grammies (including for Lifetime Achievement), a Golden Globe, an Oscar, a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a special Pulitzer Prize citation for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power” and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2012.
The news that he has been chosen for the honour was met with immense excitement.
European Parliament president Martin Schulz tweeted: “A welcome surprise! Nobel Prize to Bob Dylan celebrates poetic and engaged contribution to music and literature over the last half century.”
Novelist Salman Rushdie tweeted: “From Orpheus to Faiz, song and poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice. Nobel.”
Pakistani musician Salman Ahmad wrote: “The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind. Guitar players, poets and peace go together. Congrats Bob Dylan on winning the Nobel Prize.”
A string of Indian celebrities hailed the decision, saying better late than never.
Former Union minister Milind Deora also posted: “Tad bit overdue but better late than never. Congrats Bob Dylan for winning the Nobel Prize in Literature and for always illuminating our path.”
Poet, TV personality and producer Pritish Nandy tweeted: “And yes Bob Dylan only wrote songs of love, longing and protest. But mostly protest. No poet is a poet unless he sings of protest.”
Singer Adnan Sami congratulated Dylan saying that he deserves the honour.
Actor Siddharth posted: “Bob Dylan. Nobel Prize. Literature. I pray many more generations strive to be made literate by this genius. Wonderful news. My hero!”
Filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda also tweeted saying: “Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain. Bob Dylan such a beautiful news.”
Singer Vishal Dadlani posted: “Can’t even express my joy! Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature! This is awesome! His songs shaped the meaning of freedom for me.”
The award will be presented to Dylan alongside this year’s other five Nobel Prizes on December 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s 1896 death.