Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. The prolific musician is the first Nobel winner to have forged a career primarily as a singer songwriter. What’s more, he is also the first American.
Not since novelist Toni Morrison won the prize in 1993 has an American claimed the prize.
Thursday Sara Danius of the Swedish Academy announced the news. The win comes as something of a shock. As usual, the Swedish Academy did not announce a shortlist of nominees, leaving the betting markets to their best guesses.
Yet few would argue Dylan has been anything but powerful, both in the U.S. and beyond its borders. The prolific singer, songwriter and multi instrumentalist has produced dozens of albums, including The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited and Blood on the Tracks.
“I put an end to it. People can record their own songs now.”
Dylan, who was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941, “has the status of an idol,” the Swedish Academy wrote in a biographical note. “His influence on contemporary music is profound, and he is the object of a steady stream of secondary literature.”
In an interview following the statement, Danius elaborated on the Swedish Academy’s decision: “He is a great poet in the English-speaking tradition, and he is a wonderful sampler — a very original sampler,” Danius clarified. “For 54 years now he has been at it and reinventing himself, constantly creating a new identity.”
And for his work, the music community has also recognized Dylan.
The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded since 1901 to writers who’ve created “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” To 113 writers, 109 prizes have been doled out in that time. The prize carries with it a purse of approximately $900,000 and, as usual, inclusion on literature’s most illustrious list — the pantheon of Nobel winners.
The 75-year-old artist will receive his award in Stockholm on Dec. 10.