Yesterday marked the first time the American Academy of Arts and Letters has inducted a rock musician into its prestigious group. Or it would have been, had Bob Dylan showed up to receive the award. But hey, Bob’s a busy man.
The Academy, which was founded in 1898 and is based in New York, consists of 250 artists, musicians and writers—along with honorary members—who have made significant contributions in their respective fields. The Academy has notoriously stayed away from honoring rock musicians in the past.
Two months ago, the Academy announced that Dylan would be inducted as an honorary member. Members could not decide if Dylan should be inducted for his music or his words, so they inducted him as an honorary member. He’s in good company; other honorary members include Meryl Streep, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese.
“I feel extremely honored and very lucky to be included in this pantheon of great individual artists who comprise the Academy of Arts and Letters,” Dylan said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “I look forward to meeting all of you some time soon.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon delivered the keynote address, entitled “Rock & Roll.” During the address, he mentioned his love for Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom.”
“For more than 50 years, defying categorization in a culture beguiled by categories, Bob Dylan has probed and prodded our psyches, recording and then changing our world and our lives through poetry made manifest in song—creating relationships that we never imagined could exist between words, emotions and ideas,” read Dylan’s citation.
“In 1983, the category of American Honorary membership was inaugurated, to comprise not more than 15 persons of great distinction in the creative arts whose work falls outside or transcends the Academy’s Departments of Art, Literature and Music,” Academy president Henry Cobb said in a statement. “The members of the Academy have this year elected to American Honorary Membership Bob Dylan—poet, composer, musician—who has moved our culture with a consequence perhaps unmatched by any artist of our time.”