NEW YORK CITY: The 75-year-old rock legend received the prize “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
The balladeer, artist and occasional actor is the first songwriter to win the prestigious award.
The performer – who took his stage name from the poet Dylan Thomas – is the first American to win the award since novelist Toni Morrison in 1993.
Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said Dylan had been chosen because he was “a great poet in the English speaking tradition”.
“For 54 years now he’s been at it reinventing himself, constantly creating a new identity,” she told reporters in Stockholm.
Dylan had long been tipped as a potential prize recipient, but few experts expected the academy to extend the award to a genre such as folk rock music.
Bob Dylan in 1969Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
The singer has been a hugely influential, and sometimes controversial, figure
Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941 and began his musical career in 1959, playing in coffee houses in Minnesota.
Much of his best-known work dates from the 1960s, when he became an informal historian of America’s troubles.
Songs like Blowin’ in the Wind and The Times They are A-Changin’ became anthems of the anti-war and civil rights movements.
His move away from traditional folk songwriting, paired with a controversial decision to “go electric” proved equally influential.
Dylan’s many albums include Highway 61 Revisited in 1965, Blonde on Blonde in 1966 and Blood on the Tracks in 1975.
Since the late 1980s he has toured persistently, an undertaking he has dubbed the “Never-Ending Tour”.
Recent winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature:
2015: Svetlana Alexievich (Belarus)
2014: Patrick Modiano (France)
2013: Alice Munro (Canada)
2012: Mo Yan (China)
2011: Tomas Transtromer (Sweden)
The award will be presented alongside this year’s other five Nobel Prizes on 10 December, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s 1896 death.
The award announcement came on the same day that the death of Italian playwright Dario Fo – winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997 – was announced.