Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize in Literature. The influential singer-songwriter joined the likes of T.S. Elliot, Faulkner, Steinbeck and Hemmingway.
Today, Bob Dylan made history, by becoming the first ever pop star to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was awarded the prestigious prize for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition". He also became the first American to be awarded the Nobel in Literature since Toni Morrison, in 1993. Quite impressive!
The choice is controversial because many people seem to think song lyrics shouldn't be regarded as great literature - but then again, Dylan is used to controversy, and his lyrics have been hailed as great literally works for decades now.
Back in 2003, literary critic Christopher Ricks published a 500-page analysis of Dylan's work, which placed him in the same context as Eliot, Keats and Tennyson. The Nobel prize simply confirms Robert Zimmerman's statuts as one of the greatest writers to emerge in the 20th Century, never mind being the most influential lyricist in pop music ever, something he's been recognized as since the Sixties.
There has been politically-engaged music before Dylan - such as that of his hero, Woody Guthrie - but Dylan's songs such as 'Blowin' In The Wind' and 'A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall' marked a new era when popular music could be seem as a force for good, which could inspire a generation. And it did.
Bob Dylan was a truly revolutionary artist in the Sixties because he took old, traditional folk-music and made it modern and relevant to a new generation. He also set the template for modern music, where serious artists are expected to write their own material - it was because of Dylan's influence that pop music made such a leap forward in the Sixties, with everyone from The Beatles and Rolling Stones being inspired by him.
It's no wonder his influence is felt at the current exhibition at the V&A in London, 'You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-70'. Dylan is the first thing the visitor sees, when entering the exhibition:
Also, his more out-there, stream-of-consciousness lyrics earned him the respect of Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg, proof, if any needed, that pop lyrics could indeed aspire to be poetry. Dylan opened the doors to Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Nick Cave and many other musicians who paid as much attention to their lyrics as to their music.
There's no doubt our culture would be poorer without Bob Dylan's words, so, yes, that Nobel prize seems quite appropriate... well done, Bob!
Bob Dylan Gear Guide
Inspired by Bob Dylan? If so, here's a look at some of the most important gear he's used over the years, which you can still get hold of today!
Gibson SJ-200 Acoustic Guitar
Last year, Gibson paid tribute to Bob Dylan and released his first-ever, limited-edition signature guitar, which soon became one of the most desirable items for Dylan fans who also play the instrument. Bob Dylan started to play the J-200 in the late-Sixties, around the time of his 'Nashville Skyline' album, and it remained one of his favourite models ever since.
If you can't afford the (quite expensive) signature guitar, there are other more affordable versions of the J-200, including by Epiphone. These "super jumbo" guitars has a great sound and more projection that smaller acoustics, so it's no wonder they're a favourite amongst singer-songwriters.
If there's one guitar which is even more associated with respected singer-songwriters than the J-200, it's the Martin D-28, so it's no wonder Dylan has also used it. And he's in good company, as other famous users include John Lennon, jimmy Page, Neil Young and many others! Dylan used this guitar in many occasions since the 70's, including at George Harrison's Concert For Bangladesh.
Almost as popular as the J200 and D-28, the Hummingbird is still a favourite amongst country music players, and used by people such as Loretta Lynn and Gram Parsons - as well as a famous friend of the late Parsons, Keith Richards. Bob Dylan used one on several occasions.
Another legendary Gibson acoustic guitar that Dylan has used over the years is the Gibson J-45. From his early Greenwich Village days to his later-day artistic renaissance, Dylan could be seen with a J-45 model. This "round shoulder" model is still very popular and available in a few different versions.
Dylan & Fender Electrics
When Dylan decided to "go electric", much to the chagrin of folk-music purists, he went straight to... Fender! Live and at recording sessions, he's been photographed using a Fender Stratocaster, Fender Jazz Bass, Fender Jazzmaster, Fender Telecaster and Fender Bassman amp. Yes, it seems Fender has a lot to answer for... well, we love Dylan electric, so thank you, Fender!
...And lest we forget