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'Don't think twice, it's all right': Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize in literature

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan won the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday, a stunning announcement that for the first time bestowed the prestigious award on a musician for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Reporters and others who gathered at the Swedish Academy’s headquarters in Stockholm’s Old Town reacted with a loud cheer as his name was read out.

Dylan, 75, is arguably the most iconic poet-musician of his generation. Songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A-Changin'” became anthems for the U.S. anti-war and civil rights movements of the 1960s.

Dylan’s impact on popular culture was immense and his influence as a lyricist extends to every major music figure and songwriter of the last 50 years, from the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen and beyond.

But although he had been mentioned in Nobel speculation for years, many experts had ruled him out, thinking the academy wouldn’t extend its more than a century-old award to the world of music.

They were wrong. The academy’s permanent secretary, Sara Danius, said while Dylan performs his poetry in the form of songs, that’s no different from the ancient Greeks, whose works were often performed to music.

“Bob Dylan writes poetry for the ear,” she said. “But it’s perfectly fine to read his works as poetry.”

Dylan is the first American winner of the Nobel literature prize since Toni Morrison won in 1993.

Danius told The Associated Press that a “great majority” on the 18-member Nobel panel voted for Dylan. She said her personal favorites among Dylan’s songs include “Chimes of Freedom” and “Visions of Johanna.”

Lyrics from scores of Dylan songs, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” ”Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again,” ”My Back Pages” and “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” have worked their way into the public lexicon over the years, becoming repeated over and over, much in the manner of lines from Shakespearean plays.

Born on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota, Dylan grew up in a Jewish middle-class family.

By his early 20s, he had taken the folk music world by storm. From that time on, he would constantly reinvent himself — often enraging followers in the process — but then later winning them back and adding new admirers. His career was such a complicated pastiche of elusive, ever-changing styles that it took six actors to portray him in the 2007 movie based on his life, “I’m Not There.”

Although generally described as a rock musician, Dylan has been influenced by numerous musical styles, including country, gospel, blues, folk, pop, and rhythm and blues. Pursuing them all, sometimes separately and other times simultaneously, he remains a towering influence over music and popular culture.

He won an Academy Award in 2001 for the song “Things Have Changed” and received a lifetime achievement award from the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1991. In 2008, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his contributions to music and American culture.

Dylan is the most unorthodox Nobel literature prize winner since 1997, when the award went to Italian playwright Dario Fo, whose works some say also need to be performed to be fully appreciated. By a sad coincidence, Fo died Thursday at age 90.

The literature award was the last of this year’s Nobel Prizes to be announced. The six awards will be handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.

American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature Thursday, lauded for creating “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Here are lyrics from just a few of the hundreds of songs that he has written over his career.

How many roads must a man walk down

Before you call him a man?

Yes, ‘n’ how many seas must a white dove sail

Before she sleeps in the sand?

Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly

Before they’re forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.


(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)

1962 Warner Bros. Inc

Renewed 1990 Special Rider Music


Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway

Don’t block up the hall

For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside

And it is ragin’.

It’ll soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’.


(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)

1963, 1964 Warner Bros. Inc

Renewed 1991, 1992 Special Rider Music


Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?

Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?

I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’,

I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,

Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,

Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,

Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,

Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden,

Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,

Where black is the color, where none is the number,

And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,

And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,

Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’,

But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’,

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,

It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.


(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)

1963 Warner Bros. Inc

Renewed 1991 Special Rider Music


Wintertime in New York town,

The wind blowin’ snow around.

Walk around with nowhere to go,

Somebody could freeze right to the bone.

I froze right to the bone.

New York Times said it was the coldest winter in seventeen years;

I didn’t feel so cold then.


(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)

1962, 1965 Duchess Music Corp.

Renewed 1990, 1993 MCA


Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll

We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing

As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds

Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing

Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight

Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight

An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night

An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.


(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)

1964 Warner Bros. Inc

Renewed 1992 Special Rider Music


Maggie comes fleet foot

Face full of black soot

Talkin’ that the heat put

Plants in the bed but

The phone’s tapped anyway

Maggie says that many say

They must bust in early May

Orders from the D. A.

Look out kid

Don’t matter what you did

Walk on your tip toes

Don’t try “No Doz”

Better stay away from those

That carry around a fire hose

Keep a clean nose

Watch the plain clothes

You don’t need a weather man

To know which way the wind blows


(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)

1965 Warner Bros. Inc

Renewed 1993 Special Rider Music


You raise up your head

And you ask, “Is this where it is?”

And somebody points to you and says

“It’s his”

And you say, “What’s mine?”

And somebody else says, “Where what is?”

And you say, “Oh my God

Am I here all alone?”

Because something is happening here

But you don’t know what it is

Do you, Mister Jones?


(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)

1965 Warner Bros. Inc

Renewed 1993 Special Rider Music


You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns

When they all come down and did tricks for you

You never understood that it ain’t no good

You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you

You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat

Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat

Ain’t it hard when you discover that

He really wasn’t where it’s at

After he took from you everything he could steal.

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?


(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)

1965 Warner Bros. Inc

Renewed 1993 Special Rider Music


She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe

“I thought you’d never say hello,” she said

“You look like the silent type.”

Then she opened up a book of poems

And handed it to me

Written by an Italian poet

From the thirteenth century.

And every one of them words rang true

And glowed like burnin’ coal

Pourin’ off of every page

Like it was written in my soul from me to you,

Tangled up in blue.


(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)


Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press

Whoever it is I wish they’d cut it out but when they will I can only guess.

They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy,

She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me.

I can’t help it if I’m lucky.

People see me all the time and they just can’t remember how to act

Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts.

Even you, yesterday you had to ask me where it was at,

I couldn’t believe after all these years, you didn’t know me better than that

Sweet lady.

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth,

Blowing down the backroads headin’ south.

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,

You’re an idiot, babe.

It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

— IDIOT WIND, 1974

(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)

1974, 2002 Ram’s Horn Music


Oh, the gentlemen are talking and the midnight moon is on the riverside,

They’re drinking up and walking and it is time for me to slide.

I live in another world where life and death are memorized,

Where the earth is strung with lovers’ pearls and all I see are dark eyes.


(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)

1985 Special Rider Music

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