5 things to know about Bob Dylan, 2016 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

“The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2016 is awarded to Bob Dylan for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition…” The announcement made by the Swedish Academy in Stockholm was met with applause, surprise and slight criticism from some quarters.

For many Nigerians, the Nobel Prize in Literature is familiar mostly because we have had the honour of a Nobel Laureate in the person of Wole Soyinka, who won the prize way back in 1986.

Here are 5 facts about this year’s winner, Bob Dylan:

  1. Bob Dylan whose original name is Robert Allen Zimmerman was born in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. Although he identifies as a Christian now and has made several albums inspired by the religion, Dylan was born into a Jewish family. He started off his musical career in the 1960s when he was known as an acoustic singer and songwriter. His self-titled debut album was released in 1962 and it featured the popular track “Blowin’ in the Wind”. American magazine TIME reported of Dylan in 1963: “He has something unique to say, and he says it in songs of his own invention that are the best songs of their style.”
  2. Bob Dylan is the first musician to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. The mini-shock that accompanied this announcement is similar to the reactions that met Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos’ Nobel Peace Prize award just two weeks ago. President Santos was awarded for his efforts towards attaining peace and not an actual achievement of peace in Colombia. In his case, Bob Dylan may not be famous for his writing like the other contenders for the award, he has made an enduring mark in poetry. The Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius said, “He’s a great poet – a great poet in the English-speaking tradition. For 54 years, he’s been at it, reinventing himself constantly, creating a new identity”.
  3.  Dylan was involved in a remarkable motorcycle accident in New York in 1966 and this event pulled him out of the limelight as he boycotted musical tours for a record eight years, though he did not stop making music.
  4. 75 year old, Bob Dylan is the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature since novelist and editor, Toni Morrison who won the award in 1993. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2013. President Obama expressed his appreciation for Dylan’s works and newest achievement when he tweeted at 5.05 PM yesterday: “Congratulations to one of my favourite poets, Bob Dylan, on a well-deserved Nobel”. He also attached a link to a Spotify playlist of Dylan’s music.
  5. Though this award has attracted major criticism mostly from writers and art lovers, Dylan is yet to respond to the announcement as he rarely gives interviews. He is reportedly on tour at the moment, one of the hundreds of tours he’s had non-stop since 1988.

“I think women rule the world and that no man has ever done anything that a woman either hasn’t allowed him to do or encouraged him to do” – Bob Dylan

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