Today Bob Dylan won the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature with the board honouring Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
The news has been met with some criticism from some traditional writers who are angry with the decision to pick a songwriter over novelists and traditional poets. But the majority agree this is a well-earned honour.
Bob Dylan made his first studio recording in 1963 and has since released 37 studio albums alongside countless compilations of live and unreleased material. Dylan has been a keen student of American song styles with his work taking in folk, rock and roll, rockabilly, gospel, country and jazz.
He initially created Woody Guthrie styled topical protest songs instantly winning widespread acclaim and adoration. This earned him the title “voice of a generation” a description he balked at. By 1964 he had abandoned politics for more complex and surreal imagery. When he started integrating these with hard rock and roll he created a sound and style that could be the most influential in 20th century music.
A complex and enigmatic character, Dylan has always been prolific, amassing a huge backlog of unreleased live and studio recordings, with many surpassing the quality of his officially released catalogue. As they are slowly made available to the public it has become clear that Bob Dylan has created one of the most important bodies of work within popular music.
The Nobel Prize for Literature has often been a magnet for controversy, facing criticism for who it has chosen, who it has left out and where the prize recipients have come from. Through all this it has remained one of the most prestigious literary awards and the list of past recipients is a who’s who of the world’s greatest writers.
The astounding quality and impact of Bob Dylan’s work surely earns him the right to win this award.
- Bob Dylan booklist
- Our page listing previous winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature
- Works by Bob Dylan in our collection
- Works about Bob Dylan in our collection
- Bob Dylan Biography in context article
- Bob Dylan Biography Resource Centre
Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre