Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature. The prolific musician is the first Nobel winner to have forged a career primarily as a singer-songwriter. What's more, he's also the first American to have won the prize in more than two decades. Not since novelist Toni Morrison won in 1993 has an American claimed the prize.
Dylan earned the prize "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition," according to the citation by the Swedish Academy, the committee that annually decides the recipient of the Nobel Prize. The academy's permanent secretary, Sara Danius, announced the news Thursday.
The win comes as something of a shock. As usual, the Swedish Academy did not announce a shortlist of nominees, leaving the betting markets to their best guesses. And while Dylan has enjoyed perennial favor as an outside shot for the award, the prospect that the musician would be the one to break the Americans' long dry spell was regarded as far-fetched — not least because he made his career foremost on the stage, not the printed page.
Yet few would argue Dylan has been anything but influential, both in the U.S. and beyond its borders. The prolific singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has produced dozens of albums, including The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited and Blood on the Tracks. His track "Like a Rolling Stone" has taken on mythic standing in the decades since its release; many, including Dylan himself, have pointed to it as emblematic of a sea change in American music.
"Tin Pan Alley is gone," Dylan proclaimed in 1985, referring the dominant conventions established by music publishers of the early 20th century. "I put an end to it. People can record their own songs now."