BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene blog
Bob Dylan has earned a dozen Grammy Awards, an Oscar and high-profile recognitions including the Kennedy Center Honors and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
On Thursday, the singer-songwriter-folk hero was bestowed with the Nobel Prize in Literature for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” according to the Swedish Academy that selects the award recipients.
Dylan, 75, is the first American to win the prize since novelist Toni Morrison in 1993.
For years, cultural critics have argued that Dylan’s work deserved Nobel Prize recognition because of the timelessness and poetry of his lyrics.
While the Literature prize is usually bestowed upon a traditional author, Sara Danius, a literary scholar and permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy that awards the prize, told The New York Times that Dylan’s work was comparable to that of Homer and Sappho.
When asked if awarding the prize to a musician signified a shift in the definition of literature, Danius responded, “The times they are a changing, perhaps,” in reference to one of Dylan’s most recognized songs.
The grizzled, introverted Dylan, who is in the midst of a pair of weekend performances at Desert Trip in Indio, Calif., with fellow classic artists The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Who and Roger Waters, most recently played the Fox Theatre in April 2015.
The Nobel literature prize – which comes with an award of about $900,000 – is presented for a lifetime of writing, not one specific work.