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Bob Dylan Admitted to American Academy of Arts and Letters

The iconic singer-songwriter will be first rock star in the century-old arts organization

Bob Dylan has become the first rock star voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the century-old arts organization announced Tuesday.

The iconic singer-songwriter was one of seven named for induction into the group, which honors artists in music, literature and visual arts.

Voted into the academy's core membership were the novelist Ward Just, known for his stories set in Washington, D.C.; minimalist artist Richard Tuttle and painter and printmaker Terry Winters. The academy announced three honorary choices, all from overseas: Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, South African writer Damon Galgut and Belgian artist Luc Tuymans.

Getty ImagesAcademy officials couldn't decide whether Dylan belonged for his words or his music, executive director Virginia Dajani told the Associated Press, so they settled on making him an honorary member.

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"The board of directors considered the diversity of his work and acknowledged his iconic place in the American culture," Dajani said. "Bob Dylan is a multi-talented artist whose work so thoroughly crosses several disciplines that it defies categorization."

Meryl Streep, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese, who directed "No Direction Home," a 2005 documentary about Dylan, have been similarly honored by the academy.

While he isn't the first musician to be named to the group, his predecessors have come mainly from the classical world. Dajani and other officials have said that the academy is reluctant to vote in rock performers because they already have organizations, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to honor them.

The 71-year-old Dylan's song list includes "Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Like a Rolling Stone."

He's used to breaking barriers. Dylan was the first rocker to receive a Pulitzer Prize, an honorary award in 2008, and the first to be nominated for a National Book Critics Circle award, for his memoir "Chronicles: Volume One."

An induction and awards ceremony will be held in May. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon, who was inducted into the organization last year, will give the keynote address, entitled "Rock `n' Roll."

The New York-based academy, which was founded in 1898, consists of 250 artists, musicians and writers. Openings occur upon a member's death, with current inductees nominating and voting in new ones.


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