France awards Bob Dylan Legion of Honour
- 13 November 2013
- From the section Europe
The French government has presented US singer Bob Dylan with the country's highest award, the Legion of Honour, in a brief ceremony in Paris.
Presenting him with the award, Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti said he was a hero for young people hungry for justice and independence.
Dylan has famously never liked being used as a spokesman for other people's causes, a BBC correspondent reports.
After the speech, he said simply that he was "proud and grateful" and left.
No cameras were allowed for the ceremony at the culture ministry.
Dylan has never recorded any songs in French but a generation of people in France fell in love with his music and his message in the 1960s and 70s, the BBC's Hugh Schofield reports.
Cover versions were legion, many of them by the singer Hugues Aufray, who was in the audience.
In her speech, Ms Filippetti waxed lyrical about Dylan's cultural importance, our correspondent notes.
Naming song after song, ranging from the The Times They Are A-Changin' in the 1960s to Time Out Of Mind in the 1990s, she sought to tie them to eras and causes such as the US civil rights movement.
Dylan, she told him in the speech, had himself been inspired by poets including the French symbolists Verlaine et Rimbaud.
His aesthetic, she said, spoke to the heart; his voice, a cry of liberty. The minister also made an awkward allusion to Dylan's influence on the famous Paris student uprising of May 1968, our correspondent says.
A journalist who attended the ceremony said Dylan, 72, had looked distinctly uncomfortable.
The singer, who is playing concerts in Paris this week, met Justice Minister Christiane Taubira at a reception after the ceremony, Le Parisien newspaper reports. No details were given.
Ms Taubira, who is black, is at the centre of a storm over racism after a far-right magazine compared her to a monkey. A government investigation has been opened into the magazine, Minute.
Dylan's award was temporarily blocked earlier this year after army general Jean-Louis Georgelin, the Grand Chancellor of the Legion, voiced reservations about his use of cannabis and anti-war politics.
Established by Napoleon, the Order of the Legion of Honour is presented to individuals who have served France in various ways.