Bob Dylan, a singer-songwriter whose music has spanned half a century and multiple genres — including folk, blues, rock and gospel — was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday. In a surprise decision, he became the first singer-songwriter to win the award, which is typically given to novelists or short-story writers.
The Swedish Academy, which awards the approximately $925,000 honor each year in Stockholm, Sweden, said that Dylan had “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” One member of the academy called Dylan “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition” and compared him to Homer, whose epic poems the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” were recited in ancient Greece.
Once called “the most influential American musician rock and roll has ever produced” by Rolling Stone magazine, Dylan has recorded and toured since the early 1960s. Here are eight of his classic songs.
“Song to Woody” (1962)
Here’s to the hearts and the hands of the men
That come with the dust and are gone with the wind
One of Dylan’s first songs was an ode to Woody Guthrie, the Oklahoma-born folk singer who wrote “This Land Is Your Land.”
“Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963)
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Dylan rose to prominence as a folk singer with songs that addressed racial inequality in the United States. “Blowin’ in the Wind” became one of the leading anthems of the civil rights movement.
“A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” (1963)
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinking
But I’ll know my song well before I start singing
The song was released at the height of the Cold War, when the United States and Soviet Union were preparing for the possibility of war with nuclear weapons. Many listeners interpreted “A Hard Rain” as being about the fatal effects of a nuclear blast.
“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (1963)
When your rooster crows at the break of dawn
Look out your window and I’ll be gone
In addition to protest songs about social issues, Dylan’s work includes many songs about love and heartbreak — like this fingerpicking guitar track about a relationship that didn’t work.
“The Times They Are a-Changin’” (1964)
The loser now will be later to win
Cause the times they are a-changin’
With verses about change sweeping the country, this is perhaps Dylan’s most famous civil rights anthem.
“Like a Rolling Stone” (1965)
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
A complete unknown
Like a rolling stone
In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine named this track about loss and confusion the greatest song of all time.
“Tangled Up in Blue” (1975)
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
The lead track from one of Dylan’s finest albums, “Blood on the Tracks.”