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On Thursday, Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” He’s the 113th writer to win the award, and Dylan has made history as the first ever musician to grab the crown.
On the one hand, Dylan is one of the most widely known and commercially successful artists to have ever received the award. On the other, many of his Nobel-winning predecessors more or less are “like a complete unknown” to mainstream audiences, to quote Dylan, even after being awarded the title. (We’re guessing most “Jeopardy” players couldn’t name the last two winners in literature: Svetlana Alexievich and Patrick Modiano.)
For all of Dylan’s acclaim and notoriety, and also for how phenomenally prolific “the voice of a generation” has been—he’s still touring and putting out new albums—you might assume he is one of the best-selling artists of all time. Hardcore Dylan fans know that just isn’t the case. Consider the following:
He’s Never Recorded a #1 Song
According to Billboard, two of Dylan’s songs have reached #2 on the charts, both in the mid-1960s:”Like a Rolling Stone” in 1965 and “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (which is probably better known as “Everybody Must Get Stoned”) in 1966. A handful of other hits landed in the top 20, also in the 1960s or early 1970s, but a song sung by Dylan has never topped the charts.
One Dylan Song Did Hit #1, However
In 1965, The Byrds released “Mr. Tambourine Man,” which was written by Dylan, and it indeed rose to #1 on the charts. Peter, Paul & Mary’s version of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” hit the #2 spot a couple years earlier too.
He Didn’t Have a #1 Album in the 1960s
Bob Dylan had sold 10 million records around the globe by 1966, but none of his widely acclaimed albums from the ’60s—including “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” “The Times They Are a-Changin,'” “Highway 61 Revisited,” and “Blonde on Blonde”—topped the charts in the U.S. Instead, it wasn’t until the 1974 release of “Planet Waves” that Dylan had his first #1 album. (It’s probably best known for the song “Forever Young,” which was the inspiration for a hit single for Rod Stewart in the 1980s.)
No Dylan Album Is in the Top 200 for Sales
Billboard’s list of the top-selling 200 albums of all time includes three entries from Nickelback, two records apiece from Creed and N Sync, and soundtracks from movies like “The Sound of Music,” “Mary Poppins,” and “Dr. Zhivago.” What the list doesn’t have is a single album from Bob Dylan. Still, there’s some Dylan in there, most noticeably, with the 1963 Peter, Paul & Mary album “In the Wind” (#178 for most sales ever) featuring “Blowin’ in the Wind” and two other Dylan songs.
Read Next: How Bob Dylan Mastered the Music Business
But Dylan Has the Best Song Ever
“Like a Rolling Stone” may have never been a #1 single, but it is ranked as the greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine—which took its name from the song when the publication was founded in 1967.