Bob Dylan wins 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature

Updated 10:01 AM EDT, Thu October 13, 2016
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 12:  Musician Bob Dylan performs onstage during the 17th Annual Critics
PHOTO: Christopher Polk/Getty Images
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 12: Musician Bob Dylan performs onstage during the 17th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards held at The Hollywood Palladium on January 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for VH1)
Now playing
01:19
Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize in Literature
In this recent undated handout photo, Chinese dissident and Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, left, is attended to by his wife Liu Xia in a hospital in China. Liu Xiaobo has been released from prison on medical parole after being diagnosed earlier June 2017 with late-stage liver cancer and is being treated in a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang. He had been more than half-way through an 11-year sentence after being convicted in 2009 on subversion charges. (Photo via AP)
PHOTO: AP
In this recent undated handout photo, Chinese dissident and Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, left, is attended to by his wife Liu Xia in a hospital in China. Liu Xiaobo has been released from prison on medical parole after being diagnosed earlier June 2017 with late-stage liver cancer and is being treated in a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang. He had been more than half-way through an 11-year sentence after being convicted in 2009 on subversion charges. (Photo via AP)
Now playing
02:04
Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo dies at 61
Now playing
00:10
This video is no longer available
Now playing
00:10
This video is no longer available
Now playing
00:10
This video is no longer available
Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi attends the Nobel Peace Prize press conference at the Norwegian Nobel Institute on December 9, 2014 in Oslo, Norway.
PHOTO: Nigel Waldron/Getty Images
Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi attends the Nobel Peace Prize press conference at the Norwegian Nobel Institute on December 9, 2014 in Oslo, Norway.
Now playing
02:46
Malala becomes youngest Nobel winner
Now playing
02:39
What does a Nobel Prize winner read?
:German Nobel literature laureate Gunter Grass poses for a photo at his house in the northern German town of Behlendorf on April 5, 2012.
PHOTO: MARCUS BRANDT/AFP/Getty Images
:German Nobel literature laureate Gunter Grass poses for a photo at his house in the northern German town of Behlendorf on April 5, 2012.
Now playing
02:49
2006: Look back at Nobel literature winner Günter Grass
exp Nobel Laureate in Chemistry_00002001.jpg
exp Nobel Laureate in Chemistry_00002001.jpg
Now playing
04:19
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Tunisian mediators arrive to give a press conference to announce the result of its latest bid to mediate an end to the crisis on September 21, 2013 in Tunis. (LtoR) The President of the Tunisian employers union (UTICA), Wided Bouchamaoui, Secretary General of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) Houcine Abbassi (L) , President of the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), Abdessattar ben Moussa and the president of the National Bar Association, Mohamed Fadhel Mahfoudh. Tunisia
PHOTO: FETHI BELAID/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Tunisian mediators arrive to give a press conference to announce the result of its latest bid to mediate an end to the crisis on September 21, 2013 in Tunis. (LtoR) The President of the Tunisian employers union (UTICA), Wided Bouchamaoui, Secretary General of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) Houcine Abbassi (L) , President of the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), Abdessattar ben Moussa and the president of the National Bar Association, Mohamed Fadhel Mahfoudh. Tunisia's ruling Islamist party, Ennahda announced on September 20, 2013 that it has accepted an ambitious roadmap proposed by the mediators to form a government of technocrats and resolve the country's two-month-old political crisis.
Now playing
03:44
Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet awarded Nobel Peace Prize
cnni scientist gets nobel for micropscope _00001215.jpg
cnni scientist gets nobel for micropscope _00001215.jpg
Now playing
03:16
Invention lets you see the unseeable
exp Nobel Prize winners_00002001.jpg
exp Nobel Prize winners_00002001.jpg
Now playing
04:46
Nobel Prize winners
pkg robertson malala nobel_00004427.jpg
pkg robertson malala nobel_00004427.jpg
Now playing
02:44
Malala splits Nobel Peace Prize
pkg udas india kailash satyarthi profile_00004710.jpg
pkg udas india kailash satyarthi profile_00004710.jpg
Now playing
02:04
Satyarthi: A kid's advocate for decades

Story highlights

Dylan rewarded for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition"

Dylan, 75, is the 108th winner of the most prestigious literature prize in the world

(CNN) —  

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

The Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary, Sara Danius, said Dylan, 75, “is a great poet in the English-speaking tradition.” She drew parallels between his work and that of ancient Greek poets.

“If you look back, far back, 2,500 years or so, you discover Homer and Sappho and they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to, that were meant to be performed, often with instruments – and it’s the same way with Bob Dylan,” she said.

Although Dylan is not in the established canon of literary writers, Danius praised his creative output over five decades, including his constant reinvention of himself. She also described him as “a wonderful sampler, a very original sampler.”

Dylan’s music and lyrics spoke to a generation of people during the tumultuous 1960s and helped galvanize the civil rights movement. His influence continues to permeate through rock, pop and folk music today.

Asked where those unfamiliar with Dylan’s work should start, Danius – a professor in literature at Stockholm University– recommended his 1966 album “Blonde on Blonde,” saying it contained “many examples of his brilliant way of rhyming and putting together refrains and his pictorial thinking.”

’Strikingly versatile’ artist

The award will certainly be a surprise for some. An article published in the New Republic October 6 was headlined: “Who Will Win the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature? Not Bob Dylan, that’s for sure.”

At that point, Dylan was given odds of 50/1 by bookmaker Ladbrokes to win the prize.

Bookmakers’ favorites for 2016 included Japanese author Haruki Murakami, American novelist Philip Roth and Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o but the actual list of nominees will be kept secret for 50 years.

Perhaps seeking to forestall criticism, the Nobel Committee said in a statement that Dylan had “recorded a large number of albums revolving around topics like the social conditions of man, religion, politics and love” and that his words have repeatedly been republished.

“As an artist, he is strikingly versatile; he has been active as painter, actor and scriptwriter,” it added.

Dylan’s Nobel Prize win stirs fierce social media reaction

’Profound impact on popular music’

Dylan’s award will be welcomed by legions of fans around the world.

One, Robyn Hitchcock, tweeted: “He launched me and many others on oceans of which we’d never dreamed…”

Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1941, and released his first album, “Bob Dylan,” in 1962. That eponymous album consisted mostly of cover versions of old folk songs.

His second album, 1963’s “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” contained original songs he had written, such as “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Dozens more albums were to follow.

Since those early days, he’s collected 10 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year; one Golden Globe and one Academy Award.

In 2008, Dylan won a Pulitzer Prize special citation for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”

US President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, the nation’s highest civilian honor. At that time, Obama said, “I remember, you know, in college, listening to Bob Dylan and my world opening up, ‘cause he captured something about this country that was so vital.”

With Thursday’s announcement, Dylan also becomes the 108th winner of the most prestigious literature award in the world.

He’s the first American to be awarded the accolade since author Toni Morrison in 1993.