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Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize in literature

Legendary singer-songwriter honored 'for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition'

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, the Swedish Academy announced on Thursday. In a press release, the academy said that the legendary American singer-songwriter "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." Dylan will receive 8 million Swedish krona ($906,000) for winning the award.

With today's announcement, Dylan becomes the first American to win the Nobel Prize for literature since Toni Morrison, who received the award in 1993. Bookies gave the musician 50-to-1 odds to win the prize prior to today's announcement, as The New Republic reported last week. When the award was announced Thursday morning, a room full of reporters erupted in an audible "whooooa," before breaking into applause.

"Dylan has the status of an icon."

At the press conference, Sara Danils, permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, said that although the choice may seem unconventional, "if you look far back, 5000 years, you discover Homer and Sappho. They wrote poetic texts which were meant to be performed, and it’s the same way for Bob Dylan. We still read Homer and Sappho, and we enjoy it."

Over the course of a career that dates back to the early 1960s, Dylan has released 37 studio albums, including seminal works like "Highway 61 Revisited," "Blonde on Blonde," and "Blood on the Tracks." During the 1960s, songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" were adopted as anthems of the civil rights and anti-war campaigns, though Dylan has long been reluctant to affiliate himself with political or social movements. He has also published 12 books, including collections of lyrics, drawings, and the 2004 memoir Chronicles: Volume One.

"Dylan has the status of an icon," the Swedish Academy said in a short biography published on its website. "His influence on contemporary music is profound, and he is the object of a steady stream of secondary literature."