MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday, October 13, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
Dylan, 75, becomes the first songwriter to win the award.
The Academy’s permanent secretary Sara Danius said Dylan’s songs were “poetry for the ears.”
The announcement has stunned prize watchers. Despite being on the Nobel radar for years, the American music star has never been in serious contention.
Last year, the prize went to Belarussian author Svetlana Alexievich, for her documentary-style narratives based on witness testimonies.
Dylan will take home the 8 million kronor ($906,000 or 822,000 euros) prize sum.
Singer, songwriter, campaigner
The Nobel award 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.
Armed with a harmonica and an acoustic guitar, Dylan confronted social injustice, war and racism, quickly becoming a prominent civil rights campaigner – and recording an astonishing 300 songs in his first three years.
In 1965 Dylan’s first British tour was captured in the classic documentary Don’t Look Back – the same year he outraged his folk fans by using an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival on Rhode Island.
The following albums, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, won rave reviews, but Dylan’s career was interrupted in 1966 when he was badly injured in a motorcycle accident, and his recording output slowed in the 1970s.
By the early 1980s his music was reflecting the performer’s born-again Christianity, although this was tempered in successive albums, with many fans seeing a resurgence of his explosive early-career talent in the 1990s.
Since the turn of millennium, as well as his regular recording output and touring, Dylan has also found time to host a regular radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour, and published a well-received book Chronicles, in 2004.
He was the focus of at least two more films, Martin Scorsese’s 2005 No Direction Home and I’m not There in 2007 starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and Cate Blanchett.
Over the years Dylan has won 11 Grammy awards, as well as one Golden Globe and even an Oscar in 2001, for best original song Things have Changed in the movie Wonder Boys.
2016 Nobel season
The literature award caps the 2016 Nobel season, following more than a week of announcements for the prizes for medicine, physics, chemistry, economics and peace, with the latter going to Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos for his efforts to end a half-century war with the FARC rebels.
The 2016 laureates will receive their awards – a gold medal and a diploma – at a formal ceremony in Stockholm as tradition dictates on December 10, the anniversary of the death of prize creator Alfred Nobel.
A separate ceremony is held in Oslo for the peace prize laureate on the same day, as the Norwegian Nobel Committee grants that award. – With reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com