American songwriter Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize in literature In this May 29, 2012, file photo, President Barack Obama presents rock legend Bob Dylan with a Medal of Freedom during a ceremony at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak/David Vincent, File)
American songwriter Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize in literature
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Bob Dylan, Nobel laureate. In the book world's equivalent of a Supreme Court ruling, the Nobel judges have declared that Dylan is not just a rock star but also a poet of the very highest order.
 
Dylan, 75, becomes the first musician in the 115-year history of the Nobel to win the prize in literature. He was honored for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."
 
It is the ultimate climb for Dylan. It was Dylan who set off a lasting debate over whether lyrics, especially rock lyrics, can be regarded as art. Dylan, who gave the world "Like a Rolling Stone," ''Blowin' in the Wind" and dozens of other standards. He now finds himself on a list that includes Samuel Beckett, Toni Morrison and T.S. Eliot, whom Dylan referred to in his epic song "Desolation Row."
 
"Congratulations to one of my favorite poets, Bob Dylan, on a well-deserved Nobel," tweeted President Barack Obama. In 2012, he presented the singer-songwriter with a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
 
Dylan rarely gives interviews, and a representative said the star had no immediate comment. He is on tour.
 
The startling announcement out of Stockholm was met with both excitement and dismay.
 
Many music fans already quote Dylan as if he were Shakespeare. Judges work Dylan quotations into their legal opinions all the time, such as "The times they are a-changing" and "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."
 
With this year's Nobel announcement, many people, especially Americans, weren't scratching their heads and asking "Who?!" the way they did after hearing the names of such winners as Patrick Modiano and J.M.G. Le Clézio.
 
Others, though, lamented a lost moment for books.
 
"An ill-conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies," wrote "Trainspotting" novelist Irvine Welsh. The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said it was too bad that a "real" writer didn't get the award.
 
But several leading authors praised the news.
 
Nobel laureate Toni Morrison said in a statement that she was pleased and that Dylan was "an impressive choice." Salman Rushdie, who has written songs with U2's Bono, tweeted that Dylan is "the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice."
 
Dylan's award also was welcomed by a respected literary organization, the Academy of American Poets.
 
Critics can argue whether "Visions of Johanna" is as literary as "Waiting for Godot." But Dylan's stature among musicians is unchallenged. He is the most influential songwriter of his time. He brought a new depth, range and complexity to rock lyrics and freed Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell and countless other artists to break out from the once-narrow boundaries of love and dance songs.
 
Dylan already was the only rock star to receive a Pulitzer Prize (an honorary one). And he is, in fact, an author, too. He was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle prize for his memoir, "Chronicles: Volume One."
 
He is the first American to win the Nobel literature prize since Morrison in 1993. His award probably hurts the chances of such older American writers as Philip Roth and Don DeLillo, since the Nobel judges try to spread the honors around.
 
Dylan's life has been a hybrid of popular and literary influences. He is a native of Duluth, Minnesota. As a boy, he looked up to Elvis Presley and James Dean. He also read avidly and seemed to absorb virtually every style of American music.
 
His lyrics have referred to (and sometimes lifted from) the Bible, Civil War poetry and Herman Melville. He has contended that his classic "Blood on the Tracks" album was inspired by the stories of Anton Chekhov.
 
His songs can be snarling and accusatory ("Idiot Wind," ''Positively 4th Street"); apocalyptic ("A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"); dense and hallucinatory ("Desolation Row"); tender and wistful ("Visions of Johanna"); bracingly topical ("Hurricane" and "Only a Pawn in Their Game"); and enigmatic and absurdist ("Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again").
 
"Blowin' in the Wind" was an instant protest anthem for the 1960s. Yet it sounded as if it had been handed down through the oral tradition from another century. It included such lines as "How many times must the cannon balls fly before they're forever banned?"
 
"Like a Rolling Stone" was his takedown of a rich and pampered young woman forced to fend for herself. It was pronounced the greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. The six-minute recording from 1965 is regarded as a landmark that shattered the notion a hit song had to be three minutes.
 
He won an Oscar in 2001 for the song "Things Have Changed." And he received a lifetime achievement award from the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. That was in 1991.
 
The literature award was the last of this year's Nobel Prizes to be announced. The six awards will be handed out on Dec. 10. That is the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel's death. It was in 1896.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are Dylan's lyrics considered “literature?”
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (19)
  • jacklynt-ste
    10/20/2016 - 05:01 p.m.

    Writing a song is like writing poetry so it does not surprise me that he would be good at writing poetry. I think it is really cool how he is the first musician to receive a noble prize. I think that Bob Dylan can serve as an inspiration to many young musicians.

  • dsarah-dav
    10/20/2016 - 07:19 p.m.

    I disagree with the decision to give Bob Dylan a Nobel Prize. The first reason why I am apposed to this action is because I don't think that literature is a big enough impact to be recognized for something as important as a Nobel prize. Another reason why I am against the idea to give Bob Dylan is because by looking in the article it appears that Obama gave Dylan the prize because he was a fan."Congratulations to one of my favorite poets, Bob Dylan, on a well-deserved Nobel," tweeted President Barack Obama." That is a direct quote from Obama. It is possible that he had say in the person who got the prizes and picked someone he admired talent wise instead of someone who had made notable actions that had benefited the world in a positive way. Although this article had no information on what Dylan received the Nobel Prize for, besides the category, I still do not agree with the decision to give Bob Dylan a Nobel prize for the lack of given reason and a possible bias.

  • dylann-kul
    10/24/2016 - 01:03 p.m.

    I also feel that writing music is some sort of poetry. It is poetry in a different manner. You can express your thoughts in poetry, so you can also do the same in music. I think that Bob Dylan is a genius. I would also classify him as a poet. I agree with the decision of him getting this prize.

    • jacoba-kul
      10/26/2016 - 10:42 a.m.

      I agree. Storytelling in a musical form has been around for ages. It is about time someone got a prize for it.

    • jennav-kul
      10/26/2016 - 12:03 p.m.

      I agree with what you said about poetry. Bob Dylan’s songs are like no other and they are like poetry! I also really agree with their decision because he really did deserve the award!

    • bethanyl-kul
      10/28/2016 - 01:03 p.m.

      I agree with Dylan, i think that you can express your thoughts and feelings through both songs and poetry. I think he definitely deserved this prize.

  • jacoba-kul
    10/26/2016 - 10:41 a.m.

    It is amazing that a songwriter has gotten the Nobel Prize for literature. Most people don’t realize that most good songs tell a story. I have songs that have told history from the eyes of those who lived it. It is good that rock is being recognized as an art form.

    • charmaynes-kul
      10/28/2016 - 03:54 p.m.

      I agree songs do tell stories, and listening to them you hear about how they lived that. Some songs are good songs to hear about history from people who lived it, and others are not.

  • jennav-kul
    10/26/2016 - 12:01 p.m.

    Lyrics are like literature because they come from a singer’s heart. Songs are a way for artists to express their thoughts and feelings. It is the same way for writing poems or books. Both singing and literature is a way to show their emotion. Bob Dylan is an awesome guy and his music is amazing.

  • bennye-stu
    10/26/2016 - 01:12 p.m.

    I think that Bob Dylan deserves the noble prize. Plus he is the first musicain to earn the noble prize.

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