Iconic American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature on Thursday “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
“He is a great poet. He is a great poet in the English-speaking tradition, and he is a wonderful, original sampler. He embodies the tradition, and for 54 years now has been at it, reinventing himself constantly, creating a new identity,” Swedish Academy permanent secretary Sara Danius said after the announcement.
Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in May 1941. A lot of his music is about social change and unrest, capturing a spirit of rebellion, dissent and independence.
In a 1969 interview to Rolling Stone magazine, Dylan said about his songwriting process:
“Well, I try to get it when it comes. I play the guitar wherever I find one. But I try to write the song when it comes. I try to get it all . . . ’cause if you don’t get it all, you’re not gonna get it. So the best kinds of songs you can write are in motel rooms and cars . . . places which are all temporary. ‘Cause you’re forced to do it. Rather, it lets you go into it.
You go into your kitchen and try to write a song, and you can’t write a song – I know people who do this – I know some songwriters who go to work every day, at 8:30 and come home at 5:00. And usually bring something back . . . I mean, that’s legal, too. It just depends on . . . how you do it. Me, I don’t have those kind of things known to me yet, so I just get ’em when they come. And when they don’t come, I don’t try for it.”
In the course of his career, Dylan has won 11 Grammy Awards, one Academy Award, one Golden Globe, the Polar Music Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the MusiCares Person of the Year award, among others. He’s featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Here’s a selection of some of his best m̶u̶s̶i̶c̶ poetry: