Bob Dylan becomes first musician to win Nobel Prize in Literature

14 Oct 2016

The legendary Bob Dylan on stage. Image: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock

Look out kid, it’s somethin’ you did – Bob Dylan has been named the first musician in history to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

More than 50 years ago a little-known troubadour called Bob Dylan brought folk to rock and roll. In doing so, he became the voice of a lost generation, a protest generation, and in many ways carried on a tradition that began not long before, with Beat Generation writers like Jack Kerouac, William Burrowes, and folk singers like Woody Guthrie.

These were artists whose keen social and political observations through word, rhyme and song were bittersweet, acerbic and laser-sharp in their insights about a changing America seen through rancid motels, dying towns and lonely mid-west cities.

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2016 is awarded to Bob Dylan ‘for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition’

Future Human

Dylan added his voice to this chorus with songs from the heart that became anthems for all generations. Blowin in the Wind and The Times They are a-Changin’ were the soundtrack as the Vietnam war raged and the civil rights movement in America reached a fiery crescendo.

Hey, Mister Tambourine Man

Last night in Stockholm, Dylan – born Robert Zimmerman in 1941 – received the top honour of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2016 “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Dylan moved to New York City in 1961 and hung out at cafés around Greenwich Village, where he met the record producer John Hammond. What followed was his debut album, the self-titled Bob Dylan (1962)

In the following years, he recorded a number of albums which left their mark on music history, including: Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited in 1965, Blonde On Blonde in 1966 and Blood On The Tracks in 1975. His productivity continued in the following decades, resulting in masterpieces like Oh Mercy (1989), Time Out Of Mind (1997) and Modern Times (2006).

Dylan is the first songwriter to win the coveted Nobel Prize in Literature, which is worth €822,500.

The 75-year-old crooner’s success in winning the award has sparked a fierce debate on Twitter as to whether Bob Dylan’s work constitutes literature.

But many would argue that it is, and his body of work is often praised for its literary merit.

And the times, they are a-changin’.

Bob Dylan. Image: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years