Bob Dylan wins Nobel Literature Prize
Friday, 14 October 2016

Music legend Bob Dylan, whose poetic lyrics have influenced generations of fans, won the Nobel Literature Prize on Thursday, the first songwriter to win the award in a decision that stunned prize watchers.

The 75-year-old was honoured "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition", the Swedish Academy said.

The choice was met by gasps and a long round of spontaneous applause from journalists attending the prize announcement. The folk rock singer had been mentioned in Nobel speculation over the years, but was never seen as a serious contender.

The Academy's permanent secretary Sara Danius said Dylan's songs were "poetry for the ears" while acknowledging that some might find Dylan a "strange" choice.

"... if you think back to Homer and Sappho, you realise that was also aural poetry. It was meant to be performed, together with instruments," she said.

"But we still read them, 2,500-some years later... And in much the same way you can read Bob Dylan too. And you realise that he is great at rhyming, great at putting together refrains and great at poetic images," she told AFP.

Embodying both "the intellectual and popular tradition", he had been influenced by the Delta blues, folk music from the Appalachians and others such as the nineteenth century French poet Arthur Rimbaud who wrote in a surrealist style, she added.

"Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound," the Academy wrote.

Author Salman Rushdie, often tipped as a possible Nobel winner himself, hailed Dylan as a "great choice".

"From Orpheus to Faiz, song and poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition," he tweeted.

US President Barack Obama also tweeted his congratulations to Dylan, whom he called "one of my favourite poets".

Famously private, Dylan himself had yet to comment on the prize more than five hours after the announcement.

The Nobel is the latest accolade for a singer who has come a long way from his humble beginnings as Robert Allen Zimmerman, born in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, who taught himself to play the harmonica, guitar and piano.

Captivated by the music of folksinger Woody Guthrie, Zimmerman changed his name to Bob Dylan -- reportedly after the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas -- and began performing in local nightclubs.

After dropping out of college he moved to New York in 1960. His first album contained only two original songs, but the 1963 breakthrough "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" featured a slew of his own work including the classic "Blowin' in the Wind".

 




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