Bob Dylan Receives France's Legion of Honor Following Controversy

David Gahr

Bob Dylan

Famed pacifist Bob Dylan is now an officer.

The singer became a member of France's Legion of Honor, the highest military and civil honor in France. He has been in the French capital of Paris for a series of concerts.

During the private ceremony, culture minister Aurelie Filippetti praised Dylan's decades of work and his ability to inspire youth culture, citing his influence on the 1968 student protests in Paris.

"More than anyone, in the eyes of France, you demonstrate the subversive power of culture that can change people and the world," she said.

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Clad in cowboy boots, Dylan responded with an extremely brief: "I am grateful and proud, that's all."

His award has not been without controversy.

First nominated by Filippetti earlier this year, his nomination was temporarily blocked by the 17-member approval committee after grand chancellor Jean-Louis Georgelin expressed doubts about Dylan's worthiness for an honor usually reserved for military or civil servants.

Media reports at the time said his reservations were due to Dylan's anti-war positions and marijuana use.

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Filippetti defended him, noting that President Obama had called Dylan "the greatest American musician in history" and that he had been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the U.S. in 2102.

Dylan had also been awarded France's highest cultural honor of Commander of Arts and Letters in 1990.

The committee reconsidered and announced in early June that Dylan would be given the honor after all. "It was done in conjunction with our embassy in the United States [and] thorough knowledge of the chaotic life and texts of this extraordinary artist, who is recognized nationally and internationally as a great singer and poet," Georgelin wrote in an open letter to newspaper Le Monde, noting his American presidential award and that Dylan has been considered a frontrunner for the Nobel Prize for literature several times.

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The Legion of Honor is France's highest public decoration and usually reserved for French nationals who have served the country in a military or civil servant capacity, though Georgelin noted that it was also "intended to reward outstanding achievements in all fields of human activity."

While it's unusual for a foreign artist to receive the Legion of Honor -- they are more commonly recognized with the Arts and Letters award -- other international artistic legends have been honored, including Americans Miles Davis and Liza Minelli and Brits Laurence Olivier and Paul McCartney. McCartney is the most recent recipient, having been awarded the medal by French president Francois Hollande in 2012.

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