Bob Dylan, one of the greatest songwriters of all time, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature this morning. The Swedish Academy recognized the 75-year-old artist "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."

"He is a great poet, he is a great poet in the English speaking tradition," Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary at the Swedish Academy, told reporters. "He is a wonderful sampler, a very original sampler. He embodies the tradition. For 54 years now, he's been at it, and reinventing himself constantly, reinventing himself creating a new identity."

Dylan is the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature since Toni Morrison in 1993.

While naming a songwriter and performer the honoree of the Nobel Prize in Literature seems odd, Danius didn't think so. "If you look back, far back, 2000, 500 years or so, you discover Homer and Sappho wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to... often together with instruments. It's the same way with Bob Dylan," she explained. "We still read Homer and Sappho and we enjoy it. And same thing with Bob Dylan. He can be read and should be read, and is a great poet in...the grand English poetic tradition."

Danius had not spoken to Dylan yet. When an interviewer told Danius that Dylan is a not a "nice and smiling person when he gets awards," Danius was unbothered, "I think I have a nice message."

The NY Times reports, "The announcement, in Stockholm, came as something of a surprise. Although Mr. Dylan, 75, has been mentioned often as having an outside shot at the prize, his work does not fit into the traditional literary canons of novels, poetry and short stories that the prize has traditionally recognized." The Times referred to a 2003 op-ed by Bill Wyman, "arguing the case for Mr. Dylan’s getting the award."

[W]hy isn’t the most vital of the artistic catalysts of those upheavals himself a front-runner for the prize? I’m referring of course to Bob Dylan, a fierce and uncompromising poet whose writing, 50 years on, still crackles with relevance. Mr. Dylan’s work remains utterly lacking in conventionality, moral sleight of hand, pop pabulum or sops to his audience. His lyricism is exquisite; his concerns and subjects are demonstrably timeless; and few poets of any era have seen their work bear more influence.

In the biography of Dylan on its site, the Swedish Academy writes, "Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound, and he is the object of a steady stream of secondary literature."

Last week, Dylan was just one of many legendary performers at "Oldchella," the Desert Trip festival that includes the Paul McCartney, The Who and Roger Waters. Now, he's the only Nobel Laureate there. He performs again at Desert Trip tomorrow night, before the Rolling Stones.