He spearheaded a revival of folk music, then embraced rock "n' roll as his songs became more personal and abstract".
Last year, the Nobel Prize in literature was awarded to Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich, citing her writings on major tragedies that have impacted Belarus throughout the 20th century.
Dylan, 75, is the most iconic poet-musician of his generation.
"He is a great poet in the English-speaking tradition, and he is a wonderful sampler, a very original sampler", the Swedish Academy's permanent secretary told reporters.
Dylan's impact on popular culture was huge and his influence as a lyricist extends to every major music figure and songwriter of the last 50 years, from the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Ed Sheeran and beyond.
Dylan had been mentioned in the Nobel speculation for years, but few experts expected the academy to extend the prestigious award to a genre such as popular music. "Not Bob Dylan, that's for sure".
Asked where those unfamiliar with Dylan's work should start, Danius - a professor in literature at Stockholm University- recommended his 1966 album "Blonde on Blonde", saying it contained "many examples of his brilliant way of rhyming and putting together refrains and his pictorial thinking".
NZ tourist died fleeing from Tostee: trial
Collyer was giving evidence on the first day of the trial of Gable Tostee, who has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Wright. Earlier , the court also heard Tostee called his father after Wright fell to her death and told him the pair had had sex.
"I'm a Dylan fan, but this is an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies", the "Trainspotting" author wrote.
By his early 20s, he had taken the folk music world by storm. "He embodies the tradition and for 54 years now has been at it, reinventing himself constantly, creating a new identity".
At that point, Dylan was given odds of 50/1 by bookmaker Ladbrokes to win the prize.
He won an Academy Award in 2001 for the song "Things Have Changed" and received a lifetime achievement award from the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1991.
Dylan, overlooked on previous occasions, joins Rudyard Kipling, T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner and Harold Pinter as a recipient of the prize, first awarded in 1901, given to "the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction".
Bob Dylan was named the victor of the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature Thursday in a stunning announcement that for the first time bestowed the prestigious award to someone primarily seen as a musician. An article published in the New Republic October 6 was headlined: "Who Will Win the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature?"
The 2016 laureates receive their awards at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10.