Music News

Bob Dylan to be First Rock Musician Inducted in American Academy of Arts and Letters

Bob+Dylan+DylanbyBarryFeinsteinThe American Academy of Arts and Letters is finally ready to rock. Bob Dylan has been chosen as the first rock musician the Academy has ever chosen for its elite society.

The Academy, which was founded in 1898 and is based in New York, recognizes those who have made significant contributions in the areas of music, literature or visual art. And this isn’t just your normal, everyday honor society; the Academy consists of 250 artists, musicians and writers—along with honorary members—who are members for life. Openings only become available upon a member’s death, and the current members are the ones who nominate and vote prospective new members.

The Academy also seems to have its preferences in terms of what genres it likes to honor. For example, it has largely recognized classical musicians and has shied away from rock music. Dylan has always been a notable exclusion.

Members could not decide if Dylan belonged in the Academy for his music or his words, so they inducted him as an honorary member. Other honorary members include stars such as Meryl Streep, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese.

“The board of directors considered the diversity of his work and acknowledged his iconic place in the American culture,” executive director Virginia Dajani told the Associated Press. “Bob Dylan is a multi-talented artist whose work so thoroughly crosses several disciplines that it defies categorization.”

As for why the Academy isn’t so keen on rock musicians, Dajani and other officials have pointed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and other organizations that recognize rockers as the reason why the Academy generally steers away from the genre.

Dylan has accepted the membership, but there’s no word on whether or not the musician will be attending the Academy’s dinner in April and May induction ceremony. Pultizer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon will be the keynote speaker at the induction ceremony, and he’ll be presenting a speech titled “Rock & Roll.”  

Got something to say?