The Nobel academy’s unexpected decision to award singer-songwriter Bob Dylan the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday drew near-unanimous praise from writers, musicians, politicians and even heads of state across the globe. Israeli artists and legislators weighed in, too.
US President Barack Obama applauded Dylan’s win, tweeting from his official POTUS account: “Congratulations to one of my favorite poets, Bob Dylan, on a well-deserved Nobel.”
The Vatican newspaper recognized Dylan’s “great talent,” and called his work the work of a true artist who influenced entire generations.
British author Salman Rushdie, whose name is often mentioned in Nobel Literature Prize speculation, called Dylan “the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice.”
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet also congratulated Dylan, saying “many fond memories from my adolescence are associated with his music.”
Dylan, 75, is 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 US anti-war and civil rights movements of the 1960s.
American writer Joyce Carol Oates applauded the prize for Dylan, but also took the opportunity to attack US presidential candidate Donald Trump: “Bob Dylan a very welcome respite/interregnum interrupting cascade of T(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)p grotesquerie,” she tweeted. “The Dylan of 1960s would’ve been scathing of T(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)p.”
British singer-songwriter singer Billy Bragg quoted a line from the song “Mr. Tambourine Man,” tweeting that “For this alone Bob Dylan deserves the Nobel Prize.”
Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh was less impressed, however. “I’m a Dylan fan, but this is an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies,” he tweeted.
Generally described as a rock musician, Dylan has been influenced by numerous musical styles, including country, gospel, blues, folk, pop, and rhythm and blues. He pursued them all, sometimes separately and other times simultaneously, establishing a towering influence.
His impact on popular culture has been 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, Bono, Ed Sheeran and beyond.
Holy land Dylan
Dylan’s immense impact is also felt in Israel, where dozens of artists and music groups have covered his music.
A long list of Israeli artists, including Aviv Geffen, Ehud Banai, Rami Kleinstein, Shalom Hanoch, Airel Zilber, David Broza, Meir Ariel and rock group Machina have all sung Hebrew versions of some of his most iconic songs.
In an interview with Army Radio Thursday afternoon, Broza called Dylan’s writing “impeccable.” Broza said Dylan’s songwriting taught him and other artists to “follow the purest form of writing, not just rhyming for example, but in a higher, more mysterious form.”
“His songs have accompanied me since the beginning of my journey,” Broza said.
Israeli lawmakers also weighed in on the prize, with Knesset Member and head of the Meretz Party Zehava Galon posting Dylan’s 1965 song “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” to her Facebook page. “It’s not every day a Nobel prize is a good opportunity to put on a beloved song,” she wrote.
Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit praised Dylan for “changing the lives of a whole generation, (and as someone) who managed to move people to action, and who turned into a symbol for the desire and demand for a better world, with values, between people.”
“He is woven into the lives of so many people and into my life, personally,” Margalit wrote in a post linked to a clip of 1963’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
For much of his life, Dylan has maintained strong ties to Israel. He visited the country several times in the late 1960s and 1970s and even took steps toward joining a kibbutz.
He played three shows in Israel: in 1987, 1993 and 2011. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement pressed him to cancel his most recent performance — to no avail.
The literature award was the last of this year’s Nobel prizes to be announced. The six awards will be handed out on December 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.
Dylan rarely gives interviews, and a representative said the musician had no immediate comment. He is on tour and was scheduled to play in Las Vegas on Thursday night.