The iconic American singer song-writer Bob Dylan has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Judges credited the U.S. folk singer “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

Sara Danils, permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, said Dylan was “a great sampler … and for 54 years he has been at it, reinventing himself”.

Some of his songs, she said, were “extraordinary examples of his brilliant way of rhyming. putting together refrains, and his brilliant way of thinking,” and she compared him to Homer, author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, who “wrote poetic texts which were meant to be performed… it’s the same with Bob Dylan”.

Now 75 years of age, Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman, his paternal grandparents having fled from Odessa to escape the anti-Semitic pogroms in 1905, while his maternal grandparents came from Lithuania three years earlier.

Born in Minnesota, he began by playing in coffee houses and produced his best-known work in the 1960s, for which he has since been described as “historian of America’s troubles”.

Songs such as Times They are A-Changin’ and Blowin’ in the Wind captured the feeling of the civil rights struggle and the huge backlash again the Vietnam War.

He has sold more than 100 million records, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time, and in 2008 the Pulitzer Prize recognised his “profound impact on popular music and American culture”.