A funny thing happened on the way to the Pen Literary Award (and the Nobel Prize for Literature).

Just months after Bob (Zimmerman) Dylan became the surprise winner of the Nobel, the first time a songwriter won the coveted honor, composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim — who has been breaking artistic barriers for decades — is now the first non-traditional writer to receive the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award.

Sondheim, 86, will receive the 2017 prize, which is typically given to novelists (Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie are past recipients).

According to a news release, the award is given to a “critically acclaimed writer whose body of work helps us understand and interpret the human condition.” Having penned music, lyrics or both for seminal musicals like “West Side Story,” “Gypsy,” “Into the Woods” and one of his more experimental works, “Company” (the list goes on), Sondheim has generated a significant amount of important work over the past 60 years. Much of his legacy lies in redefining the musical theater milieu by challenging both form as well as content, either by placing the orchestra on stage with the cast or departing from the typical musical structure — often delving into the human condition in a broader, existential sense.   

Born Stephen Joshua Sondheim to a Jewish family on the Upper West Side, the “Sweeney Todd” composer and lyricist will be honored on April 25 at the American Museum of Natural History. This is far from Sondheim’s first artistic accolade: he has one eight Tony Awards, a record for any composer, an Academy Award, a Pulitzer Prize, eight Grammy Awards and the Laurence Olivier Award.

And this is not Sondheim’s first prestigious award outside of his typical realm: In 2015, Sondheim was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

One of Sondheim’s more groundbreaking musicals, “Sunday in the Park with George,” will be returning to Broadway this month, starring another MOT, Jake Gyllenhaal.

According to a phone interview with The New York Times, president of PEN America, Andrew Solomon said of Sondheim, “His works point to the significance of living a moral life, and that’s never felt more urgent than right now.”