For the first time in its 115 year history, the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to a songwriter/musician: Minnesota native Bob Dylan. He is the first American to win the award since author Toni Morrison won it in 1993.
In awarding the Prize, the Swedish Academy cited his “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, called Mr. Dylan “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition,” comparing him to Homer and Sappho, whose work was delivered orally.
Born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota, he took the name “Bob Dylan” while attending the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, when he began performing folk and country songs at local cafes. (Fun fact: he first was known as “Bob Dillon”, named after a favorite character from the television show Gunsmoke – Marshal Matt Dillon.)
In 1961 Dylan signed his first recording contract and emerged as one of the most original and influential voices in the history of American popular music, penning such influential songs as Blowin’ in the Wind, Like a Rolling Stone, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Just Like a Woman, Tangled Up in Blue, Shelter From the Storm, and the song that is considered by many to be the greatest protest song of all time, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.
Along with the Nobel Prize for Literature, Mr. Dylan has won numerous Grammy Awards, an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award, and a Pulitzer Prize; in 1990 he was awarded France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, in 1997 was named an honoree at the Kennedy Center, and in 2012 he was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest US civilian honor.
And at 75, he’s still going strong.