Rock great Bob Dylan has been named the surprise winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for literature.
The Swedish Academy cited the American musician for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
Thursday’s announcement was met with gasps in Stockholm’s stately Royal Academy hall, followed – unusually – by some laughter.
The move that puts Dylan in the company of Winston Churchill and Rudyard Kipling completed the annual Nobel Prize announcements. Awards have earlier been awarded in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry, peace and economics.
This year, the prizes are each worth eight million kronor $US930,000 ($A1.2 million).
In awarding the prize the Academy said: “Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound.”
More than 50 years on, Dylan is still writing songs and is often on tour.
“He is probably the greatest living poet,” Swedish Academy member Per Wastberg said.
Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Nobel Academy, told a news conference there was “great unity” in the panel’s decision to give Dylan the prize.
"He can be read and should be read, and is a great poet in the English tradition" https://t.co/g7CnFBlkNB
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 13, 2016
His songs such as Blowin’ in the Wind, Masters of War, A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall, The Times They Are a-Changin, Subterranean Homesick Blues and Like a Rolling Stone captured a spirit of rebellion, dissent and independence.
More than 50 years on, Dylan is still writing songs and is often on tour, performing his dense poetic lyrics, sung in a sometimes rasping voice that has been ridiculed by detractors.
Some lyrics have resonated for decades, and he has even been compared to the ancient Greek poet Homer.
Blowin’ in the Wind, written in 1962, was considered one of the most eloquent folk songs of all time. The Times They Are A-Changin, in which Dylan told Americans “your sons and your daughters are beyond your command”, was an anthem of the civil rights movement and Vietnam War protests.
Awarding the 8 million Swedish crown ($A1.2 million) prize, the Swedish Academy said: “Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound.”
Swedish Academy member Per Wastberg said: “He is probably the greatest living poet.”
Asked if he thought Dylan’s Nobel lecture – traditionally given by the laureate in Stockholm later in the year – would be a concert, replied: “Let’s hope so.”
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 13, 2016
Over the years, not everyone has agreed that Dylan was a poet of the first order. Novelist Norman Mailer countered: “If Dylan’s a poet, I’m a basketball player.”
Other authors were not sure Nobel had Dylan in the right category:
I totally get the Nobel committee. Reading books is hard.
— Gary Shteyngart (@Shteyngart) October 13, 2016
I'm a Dylan fan, but this is an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.
— Irvine Welsh (@IrvineWelsh) October 13, 2016
I'm happy for Bob Dylan. #ButDoesThisMeanICanWinAGrammy?
— Jodi Picoult (@jodipicoult) October 13, 2016
However he does have fans in high places:
Congratulations to one of my favorite poets, Bob Dylan, on a well-deserved Nobel. https://t.co/c9cnANWPCS
— President Obama (@POTUS) October 13, 2016
From Orpheus to Faiz,song & poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition.Great choice. #Nobel
— Salman Rushdie (@SalmanRushdie) October 13, 2016
I am ecstatic that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel. A great and good thing in a season of sleaze and sadness.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) October 13, 2016
Dylan has always been an enigmatic figure. He went into seclusion for months after a motorcycle crash in 1966, leading to stories that he had cracked under the pressure of his new celebrity.
He was born into a Jewish family but in the late 1970s converted to born-again Christianity and later said he followed no organised religion.
At another point in his life, Dylan took up boxing.
The Nobel awards are presented every year on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel.
The prize is named after dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and has been awarded since 1901, for achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with his will.
A sampling of Nobel Prize for Literature winner Bob Dylan’s classic lyrics:
* From “Blowin’ In The Wind”, 1963 How many years can a mountain exist Before it’s washed to the sea? Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist Before they’re allowed to be free? Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head Pretending he just doesn’t see? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
* From “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, 1963 Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son? Who did you meet, my darling young one? I met a young child beside a dead pony, I met a white man who walked a black dog, I met a young woman whose body was burning, I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow, I met one man who was wounded in love, I met another man who was wounded with hatred, And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.
* From “The Times They Are A-Changin”, 1964 Come mothers and fathers Throughout the land And don’t criticise What you can’t understand Your sons and your daughters Are beyond your command Your old road is rapidly agin’ Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand For the times they are a-changin’ .
* From “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”, 1965 Disillusioned words like bullets bark As human gods aim for their mark Make everything from toy guns that spark To flesh-coloured Christs that glow in the dark It’s easy to see without looking too far That not much is really sacred.
* From “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, 1965 You don’t need a weather man To know which way the wind blows.
* From “Like a Rolling Stone”, 1965 When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.
* From “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, 1973 Mama, put my guns in the ground I can’t shoot them anymore. That long black cloud is comin’ down I feel I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.
* From “Shelter from the Storm”, 1974 I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail Poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm” .
"for all the foibles of the prize and its selection committee, can we just bask for a little while in this one?" https://t.co/0FhTpr1c7f
— Katherine C. James (@Kcecelia) October 13, 2016