Singer-songwriter takes the award for ‘having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition’

Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, it was announced today, Thursday.

Nobel Prize permanent secretary Sara Danius said: “He is a great poet in the English tradition.”

Dylan is the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature since author Toni Morrison in 1993.

Speaking after the announcement, Prof Danius compared Dylan to the Ancient Greek poets: “Homer and Sappho – they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be performed with instruments . . . it’s the same with Bob Dylan.”


Best known for his early hits such as Blowin’ in the Wind and Like a Rolling Stone, Dylan was a key member of the 1960s alternative folk movement, but shocked his contemporaries by being one of the first folk musicians to “go electric” in 1965.

Prof Danius added that the singer-songwriter was “a great sampler… and for 54 years he has been at it, reinventing himself.”

The 75-year-old American follows writers including Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Alice Munro in receiving the prestigious award.

Dylan has previously won 11 Grammy Awards, as well as an Oscar for his song Things Have Changed, used in the 2000 film Wonder Boys


Booker Prize-winning writer Salman Rushdie praised Dylan as a “great choice,” calling him “the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition.”


The former Children’s Laureate, poet Michael Rosen, celebrated the decision by quoting his favourite Dylan lyrics on Twitter.

While agreeing with the choice, activist Monica Lewinsky suggested that Dylan’s win would make Leonard Cohen a likely candidate in future.

Though best known for his musical career, and his role as a pivotal figure in 1960s counter-culture, Dylan has also written a collection of experimental prose poetry, 1971’s Tarantula.

The first poem in the collection, Guns, the Falcon’s Mouthbook & the Gashcat Unpunished, begins with a tribute to one of his favourite singers, Aretha Franklin:

“aretha/ crystal jukebox queen of hymn & him diffused in drunk transfusion […] aretha with no goals, eternally single & one step soft of heaven/ let it be understood that she owns this melody along with her emotional diplomats & her earth & her musical secrets”


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