Bob Dylan, a folk singer whose poetic lyrics defined his generation, has become the first musician to win the nobel prize for literature.
The prize, which was first awarded in 1901, was presented to Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” according to an announcement from the Swedish Academy, which decides the prize each year from an undisclosed list of candidates.
Dylan’s distinctive voice and his musicianship brought him early success. Born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1941, he released his first album in 1962, drawing heavily on traditional folk songs. Soon, though, he began writing his own lyrics, producing distinctive works like Mr Tambourine Man, which Dylan wrote when he was just 22.
In 1965, he famously appalled folk fans by changing the sound they’d grown to love by playing electric guitar. One fan at a 1966 concert shouted a single word which went down in history: “Judas.”
Dylan is “a great sampler,” according to Sara Danils, permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, speaking to the Guardian newspaper. He had been “reinventing himself” for 54 years, she said.
She said his 1966 album Blond on Blond was “An extraordinary example of his brilliant way of rhyming, putting together refrains, and his brilliant way of thinking.”
There is no long list or shortlist for the prize, and so bookmakers are one of the only sources of information about who might win. Dylan had a betting site, gave him 16 to one odds of winning this morning, well behind other favorites. The usefulness of bookies in predicting the Nobel is limited, however, argued one commentator, because people always bet on the same authors.