If you’ve ever made the foray into classic rock and folk music, then you definitely know and love the legendary musician Bob Dylan. His lyrics are still among the most poetic and depictive of American politics and society ever. He is also known for infamously introducing The Beatles to cannabis in the ‘60s, which is said to have sparked a major transformation for the band, Bob Dylan has become an international icon known for speaking from his heart in his unique bellowing voice.
As poetic and influential as he is as a musician, it was a surprise to discover today that the folk songwriter had been awarded with the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, a prestigious accolade generally reserved for revered writers of fiction and poetry. This makes Dylan the first-ever songwriter to win the annual award, and also makes him the first American to win since novelist Toni Morrison in 1993.
Dylan was granted the award "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. The award was congratulated by President Barack Obama on Twitter, but proved to be a bit more divisive among the literature community. Former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion praised the choice to award Dylan, claiming that his songs “work as poems”. Revered writer Sir Salman Rushdie also sent his congratulations, stating that “from Orpheus to Faiz, song & poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice."
Though most have agreed with the choice, not everyone agreed with the decision to award Dylan with the Nobel Prize for Literature. For instance, Irvine Welsh, the author of Trainspotting, voiced his dissent on Twitter by stating "I'm a Dylan fan, but this is an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies." US novelist Jodi Picoult took a lighthearted shot at Dylan as well, claiming that she was happy for him but also ended her congratulations with the hashtag “#ButDoesThisMeanICanWinAGrammy?”
Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, has made his poetic voice heard on 37 studio albums, each of which have evolved alongside the musician himself. He’s also penned three books, but the award seems to celebrate his politically charged lyrics more than anything else. Whether he was hinting at cannabis use in his controversial “everybody must get stoned” lyric from “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” or protesting war with the song “Blowin’ in the Wind”, no one has been able to encapsulate the issues of America in an artistic manner quite like Bob Dylan.