Against all predicted odds, it was announced this morning that Bob Dylan, who turned 75 this year, has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, which determines the honorees, described Dylan as a great “in the English-speaking tradition,” comparing him to Homer and Sappho, whose work was “meant to be performed, often together with instruments.”
As local Dylan fans will attest, a considerable portion of his most prolific period is intertwined with the Hudson Valley. The Minnesota native and New York transplant resided in Woodstock in the mid-1960s, and after a notorious motorcycle accident there in 1966, largely receded from public view for several years. One exception was the recording of his Basement Tapes alongside The Band in the now-famed Saugerties house dubbed “Big Pink.” The album-cover image for 1969’s Nashville Skyline was even snapped on a laid-back afternoon outside Dylan’s home by local photographer Elliott Landy.
And although his work doesn’t necessarily fit in among the Nobel’s typical literary canon, Danius cited his constant output of music and self-reinvention over 50 years, referring to him as a poet “that can be read and should be read.” When asked whether this decision marks a broadening definition of what the organization deems as “literature,” Danius quipped, “The times they are a changing, perhaps.”