It’s usually a novelist, dramatist or poet. But who else might take the prize in future, now the songwriter Bob Dylan has won it? As the first songwriter awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, Bob Dylan’s win has surprised many. If you look far back you discover Homer and Sappho. Now that the remit has widened, which other songwriters deserve the honour? Admittedly, Moz is more likely to win the Nobel Prize in Literature for his song lyrics than his fiction effort, the widely-panned 2015 novella List Of The Lost.
Don’t Believe The Hype and Fight The Power delivered a genuine shock to the mainstream system. Ever since Kate Bush’s youthful breakthrough with Wuthering Heights in 1978, her lyrics have had a consciously literary character. Whether she is channelling Emily Brontë or James Joyce, or spinning purely from her own imagination, from 1985’s Cloudbusting to 2005’s King Of The Mountain, Bush is an extraordinary, vivid storyteller. He is a Brazilian Tropicália icon, collaborative spirit and prolific writer, whose songs have captured a provocative, political spirit since the late 1960s. Punk poetess, Mapplethorpe muse, and art rocker Patti Smith’s expressions have ranged from righteous rage to fantastically tender declarations of love. Smith’s world is incredibly vast, and her work has involved increasingly global influences over the years. From jaunty choruses to haunting confessions, and ever since, Mitchell’s songs have proved both delicate and undeniably powerful. As solo artist, collaborator, or most famously, as frontman of The Bad Seeds for over 30 years, Australian rocker Nick Cave has always combined hard and dirty riffs with brutally smart and often gut-wrenchingly funny lyricism. There’s an unmistakeably grizzled soul and a satirical edge to Cohen’s celebrated songs, such as Hallelujah and First We Take Manhattan. Now 82, Cohen has just announced that his next album is on the way.
On and off-Broadway, Sondheim has arguably elevated the showtune to a work of high art. If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter. And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Earth, Culture, Capital, Travel and Autos, delivered to your inbox every Friday. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read about our approach to external linking. Who Will Win the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature? Not Bob Dylan, that’s for sure. Last year’s Nobel Prize in Literature was something of a rarity in the award’s history in that the winner, Svetlana Alexievich, was favored to win by the British betting site Ladbrokes.
If Ladbrokes is to be trusted, the field this year is wide open. But it shouldn’t be trusted, not really, since so far people are betting on the same writers that they always bet on to win the Nobel Prize, most of whom don’t even have a chance. Pasta fetishist Haruki Murakami will not win the Nobel Prize. Bad tweeter Joyce Carol Oates will not win the Nobel Prize. The situation in Syria is so depressing that even the Nobel Committee for Literature, which loves to celebrate its own wokeness, won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole, which means that the poet and perennial Nobel bridesmaid Adonis also probably will not win it. Murakami, Oates, Adonis, and Ngugi have led the Ladbrokes field for years not because they are contenders necessarily, but because people bet on them. Why, then, do we always turn to Ladbrokes? Man Booker or the National Book Award, the Nobel Prize releases no longlists or shortlists.
Unlike political news, the information doesn’t leak ahead of time—whatever else you can say about the Nobel Committee, they run a pretty tight Scandanavian ship. But that means that Nobel speculation rests entirely on bookies, and the bookies are not particularly confident in their ability to set the bets. So let’s dispel with this fiction that the betting odds for the Nobel Prize in Literature actually mean anything. They don’t, with the exception that if someone shoots up in the odds, like Alexievich did last year, there’s a pretty good chance that they’re on the shortlist. All of these writers are plausible and deserving candidates. Adonis, Ngugi, and Ko have been betting favorites for years, and there’s reason to suspect that Ngugi has made the shortlist at least once before. The Nobel Prize has often gone to writers who have been punished for fighting for civil rights, and all three have been imprisoned, while Adonis and Ngugi have both lived in exile. And the respective styles of these three writers are, to varying degrees, regionally representative. There’s also a statistical case to be made.
won a nobel prize for literature