Bob Dylan is first rocker in elite arts and letters group

LOS ANGELES — Bob Dylan has become the first rock musician inducted into the New York-based American Academy of Arts and Letters, an elite group of composers, artists, authors and architects that the group describes as "the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in the United States."

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

The 115-year-old academy, whose inaugural class of honorees included Mark Twain, has selected Dylan for his musical and his lyrical achievements. He joins members including Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Meryl Streep among popular entertainers voted into the body, which has a fixed membership of 250, who are elected for life, and pay no dues. New members are voted in when an existing member dies, and only current members can nominate and elect new members.

Members include writers Robert Bly, Harold Bloom, E.L. Doctorow, artists Christo, Mary Frank, Mark di Suvero, John Baldessari and Maya Lin and musicians Philip Glass, John Corigliano and Stephen Sondheim. The member of longest standing is New York poet Richard Wilbur, elected in 1957.

One prerequisite of election to the academy is the honoree's acceptance of membership, a condition Dylan reportedly has accepted.

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