American music legend, wanderer of famous neighborhoods, and sometime Chrysler spokesman Bob Dylan won this year’s Nobel Prize in literature Thursday morning. The 75-year-old is the first American to win the honor in two decades.
The Nobel Committee singled out Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
Born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, Dylan joined the New York City folk scene in the early ’60s and quickly became its most prominent singer-songwriter. He would often mimic his hero Woody Guthrie in smoky-voiced anthems like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
Halfway through the decade he grew into a new “electric” sound with the album “Highway 61 Revisited” and began a long career of David Bowie-like transformations. You can listen to him do rock on “Blonde on Blonde,” country on “Nashville Skyline,” and gospel in “Slow Train Coming,” and then go back to basics on 1997’s “Time Out of Mind.”
Dylan’s own personality bounced around, too, as he tore through different styles, fashions, and religious beliefs, declaring himself a born-again Christian in the ’80s, gravitating to Judaism in the aughts, all the while floating the idea that he’s actually been agnostic the whole time.
Even as the decades have turned his fiery voice to ash, Dylan continues to write and release albums, often to critical acclaim. His latest, “Fallen Angels,” dropped in May.