US folk icon Bob Dylan was the surprise choice for the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature announced Thursday by the Swedish Academy.
Dylan, 75, won the award for creating "new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition," Academy permanent secretary Sara Danius said after announcing the prize.
"He samples the great tradition all the way from American folk song to delta blues to the Appalachian to French modernism ... in a very original way," she told reporters, adding that he had repeatedly reinvented himself and his craft.
The iconic singer-songwriter, born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth in the US state of Minnesota, had not been tipped as a likely winner by experts or bookmakers this year, despite many previous nominations.
Danius said those not familiar with Dylan's long musical career could begin by listening to his 1966 album "Blonde on Blonde," with songs like "Visions of Johanna."
The award for Dylan ended a long drought for literature laureates from the United States where Toni Morrison, awarded in 1993, was the most recent US winner.
The Academy was created by Swedish King Gustav III in 1786, and has since 1901 been charged with awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Danius said the academy concluded "it had not had to add a new genre" in recognizing Dylan, saying that he was part of a long tradition with 2,500-year-old roots back to the Greek poets Homer and Sappho.
Their texts were also intended to be listened to, accompanied by musical instruments, she said.
Dylan "can be read and should be read, [he's] a great poet in the grand English tradition," Danius said.
Originally becoming famous as a singer in the 1960s, with songs such as "Masters of War" and "The Times they are A-Changin'," Dylan also penned the rock classic "Like a Rolling Stone."
As well as continuing to tour very late into his career - he is playing Las Vegas this week - Dylan has hosted a critically-acclaimed radio show and written the well-received memoir "Chronicles."
Last year, the Academy selected Belarusian author and investigative journalist Svetlana Alexievich for the literature prize.
Thursday's announcement completed the annual Nobel Prize announcements. Awards have earlier been awarded in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry, peace and economics.
This year, the prizes are each worth 8 million kronor (930,000 dollars). The awards are presented every year on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel.