Patti Smith on this month’s “special” Bob Dylan tribute concerts

"I loved Bob Dylan since I was 16 years old"

Patti Smith has spoken of her forthcoming “special” concerts marking Bob Dylan‘s 80th birthday, while recalling the first time she met the legendary artist.

As announced back in March, Smith will take to the stage at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park’s outdoor Spring Festival in Tivoli, New York for a pair of live performances on May 22/23 – two days before Dylan’s milestone birthday (on May 24).

Appearing alongside her longtime bandmate Tony Shanahan, she will perform “original songs and poetry as well as works by Dylan” to a limited, socially distanced audience.


Smith has told Rolling Stone ahead of the shows that she remains “optimistic” about the return of live music post-coronavirus, but explained: “We have to be patient, creative, and see how we can redesign our world.”

Going on to say that she was “excited” about her Dylan tribute concerts, the musician spoke of her fondness for playing outdoors as well as the “really wonderful” space in which she’ll be performing.

Patti Smith
Patti Smith. CREDIT: Roberto Finizio/Getty Images.

“I’ve been up in Tivoli and it’s a very historic piece of land. It’s big, it’s beautiful up there. It’s a beautiful time of the year,” Smith said.

“I wanted to do something there, something small, but I wanted to do something special. And I realised that we’re playing just two days before Bob Dylan’s birthday. And Bob Dylan will be 80 on the 24th. And so I thought it would be really nice to do a special thing for Bob.

“So, we’re going to do, I don’t know, five or six Bob Dylan songs and songs of my own and some poems and things like that. I wrote a couple of poems to Bob when I was young. I’ll figure out something special.”


Smith went on to recall first crossing paths with Dylan back in 1974 when he went to watch one of her shows in New York. “And then he came backstage. I mean, I loved Bob Dylan since I was 16 years old and suddenly there he was,” she remembered.

“He comes in and says, ‘Hey, any poets back here?’ And I went, ‘I don’t like poetry’.”

Smith added: “It’s just like a kid in high school being mean to a girl because he really likes her. That’s what I was acting like.”

She explained that Dylan has “a good sense of humor” and said the pair “became quite friendly” following their meeting. “I think that his support of our band really helped us get signed because everyone took note of it,” Smith told Rolling Stone.

Meanwhile, Patti Smith has been announced as one of the performers for this year’s Manchester International Festival, which will take place in July.